"When all you have is a hammer..." source of saying?

I am trying to track down the origin of the saying When all you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail. After an hour of googling, I’ve got this:

“When the only tool you have is a hammer you tend to see every problem as a nail.” Abraham Maslow
“Give a child a hammer, and the world becomes a nail.” Jurgen Habermas
Baruch’s Observation:
If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

I have also seen it credited it to Mark Twain. Does anyone have an authoritative cite for the first appearance of this idea?

I’ve always heard this as “When you’ve got a brand new hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Kind of a “boys and their toys” theme and echoing the “give a child a hammer” quote.

Sorry, no cite.

The quote is frequently attributed to Abraham Maslow, in Psychology of Science. I don’t have anything authoritative, though.


Appreciate the posts, but I already know all that… I am looking for an authoratative cite of the first appearance of this idea. Anyone?

<bump> …one more try…

“Give a man a hammer, then he wants a bell, and the next thing you know, he wants a song to sing, all over this land. Ingrateful SOB.” :wink:

Sorry, all of my searches say Maslow.

Other than a single cite to Twain, which could easily be erroneous (witty comments are often attributed to Twain, Wilde, and GBS), do you have any reason to think it isn’t by Maslow?

Well, the OP found 4 different author cites of it. I appreciate the reference to Psychology of Science. I haven’t been able to lay my hands on a copy to see exactly what he said, and if he seems to be saying it as an original quote, or quoting someone else. Aside from that, I’m just getting affirmations with no evidence. I do not have reason to think it isn’t by Maslow, but I don’t yet have sufficient reason to believe that it is.

Maslow’s dates are 1908-1970; Habermas was born in 1929. Maslow started publishing in the '40s, when Habermas was still a schoolboy. It seems quite plausible to me that Maslow did, in fact, originate the phrase/thought, and that Habermas used it, with or without providing the citation. The “Baruch’s observation” cite seems like an unattributed quote to me, and I think the Twain cite could easily just be wrong.

Searching many (though not all) of the sites in this list of quotation sites, the ones I examined attribute the quote (with minor variations in wording) to Maslow.

If I were a betting man, that’s where I’d place my bet.