Measuring Self Actualization

Everett L. Shostrom (1974) developed the Personal Orientation Inventory (POI) hi an attempt to measure the values and behaviors of self-actualizing people. This inventory consists of 150 forced-choice items, such as: (a) "I can feel comfortable with less than a perfect performance" versus (b) "I feel uncomfortable with anything less than a perfect performance"; (a)" Two people will get along best if each concentrates on pleasing the other" versus (b) "Two people can get along best if each person feels free to express himself"; and (a) "My moral values are dictated by society" versus (b) "My moral values are self-determined" (Shostrom, 1963). Respondents are asked to choose either statement (a) or statement (b), but they may leave the answer blank if neither statement applies to them or if they do not know anything about the statement.

The POI has 2 major scales and 10 subscales. The first major scale—the Time Competence/Time Incompetence scale—measures the degree to which people are present oriented. The second major scale—the Support scale—is "designed to measure whether an individuals mode of reaction is characteristically 'self' oriented or 'other' oriented" (Shostrom, 1974, p. 4). The 10 subscales assess levels of (T) self-actualization values, (2) flexibility hi applying values, (3) sensitivity to one's own needs and feelings, (4) spontaneity in expressing feelings behaviorally, (5) self-regard (6) self-acceptance, (7) positive view of humanity, (8) ability to see opposites of life as meaningfully related (9) acceptance of aggression, and (10) capacity for hithnate contact. High scores on the 2 major scales and the 10 subscales hidicate some level of self-actualization; low scores do not necessarily suggest pathology but give clues concerning a person's self-actualizing values and behaviors.

The POI seems to be quite resistant to faking—unless one is familiar with Maslow's description of a self-actualizing person. In the POI manual, Shostrom (1974) cited several studies in which the examinees were asked to "fake good" or "make a favorable impression" hi filling out the inventory. When participants followed these instructions, they generally scored lower (in the direction away from self-actualization) than they did when responding honestly to the statements.

This finding, indeed is an interesting one. Why should people lower their scores when trying to look good? The answer lies in Maslow's concept of self-actualization. Statements that might be true for self-actualizers are not necessarily socially desirable and do not always conform to cultural standards. For example, items such as: "I can overcome any obstacles as long as I believe hi myself" or "My basic responsibility is to be aware of others' needs" may seem like desirable goals to someone trying to simulate self-actualization, but a self-actualizing person probably would not endorse either of these items. On the other hand a truly self-actualizing person may choose such items as: "I do not always need to live by the rules and standards of society" or "I do not feel obligated when a stranger does me a favor" (Shostrom, 1974, p. 22). Because one of the characteristics of self-actualizing people is resistance to enculturation, it should not be surprising that attempts to make a good impression will usually result hi failure.

Interestingly, Maslow himself seemed to have answered the questions honestly when he filled out the inventory. Despite the fact that he helped in the construction of the POI, Maslow's own scores were only hi the direction of self-actualization and not nearly as high as the scores of people who were definitely self-actualizing (Shostrom, 1974).

Even though the POI has demonstrated reasonable reliability and validity, some researchers (Weiss, 1991; Wliitson & Olczak, 1991) have criticized the inventory for failing to distinguish between known self-actualizers and non-self-actualizers. Furthermore, the POI has two practical problems; first, it is long, takhig most participants 30 to 45 minutes to complete; and second the two-item forced-choice format can engender hostility in the participants, who feel frustrated by the limitations of a forced-choice option. To overcome these two practical limitations, Alvin Jones and Rick Crandall (1986) created the Short hidex of Self-Actualization, which borrows 15 items from the POI that are most strongly correlated with the total

Chapter 10 Maslow: Holistic-Dynamic Theory 297

self-actualization score. Items on the Short Index are on a 6-point Likert scale (from strongly disagree to strongly agree). Research (Compton, Smith, Cornish, & Quails, 1996; Rowan, Comption & Rust, 1995; Runco, Ebersole, & Mraz, 1991) on the Short hidex of the POI lias indicated that it is a useful scale for assesshig self-actualization.

A third measure of self-actualization is the Brief Index of Self-Actualization, developed by John Sumerlin and Charles Bundrick (1996, 1998). The original Brief Index (Sumerlin & Bundrick, 1996) comprised 40 items placed on a 6-point Likert scale and thus yields scores from 40 to 240. Factor analysis yielded four factors of self-actualization, but because some items were placed in more than one factor, the authors (Sumerlin & Bundrick, 1998) revised the Brief Index of Self-Actualization by eliminating eight items so that no single item was found on more than one factor. This inventory yields four factors: (I) Core Self-Actualization, or the full use of ones potentials; (II) Autonomy, (III) Openness to Experience; and (IV) Comfort with Solitude. Typical items include "I enjoy my achievements" (Core Self-Actualization), "I fear that I will not live up to my potential" (a reversed scored item measuring Autonomy ), "I am sensitive to the needs of others" (Openness to Experience), and "I enjoy my solitude" (Comfort with Solitude). The reliability, validity, and usefulness of the Brief Index has not yet been fully determined.

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  • Santeri
    How to measure self actualization?
    1 year ago

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