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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs published on 3 Comments on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

This is a famous psychology-management conceptual postulate thing. I had heard of this and even made empty, uninformed references to it, but never looked at it until just now.

The idea is that people don’t pursue needs up higher in the pyramid until the ones below are covered — and that movement up and down the hierarchy is fluid.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

I totally don’t get it.

The part where, like, a rocket scientist will quit doing rocket science if there’s a zombie apocalypse, I get. It seems like that does not require a postulate at all.

But people will constantly scuttle their basic needs in an attempt to secure higher ones. Ever known someone to do destructive things with food in order to medicate their self-esteem? Ever known someone to forego sleep to the point of hallucination in order to keep a job or get through med school?

The missing piece is FEAR — the misperception of need. People are not always equipped to make decisions guided by ANY model.

Also, I don’t get “sex” as a physiological need. SORRY. AH DON’T.

Anyway — does anybody know more about this? What credibility does this have that it keeps coming up?

I will make my own hierarchy and it will kick this hierarchy’s BUTT.

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Nor was Maslow foolish enough to make any absolute pronouncements. The psychology textbook I have handy quotes him thus:

If all the needs are unsatisfied, and the organism is then dominated by physiological needs, all other needs may become simply non-existent or pushed into the background. It is then fair to characterize the whole organism as saying simply that it is hungry, for consciousness is almost completely preempted by hunger. . . . The urge to write poetry, the desire to acquire an automobile, the interest in American history . . . are . . . forgotten or become of secondary importance. (From A. H. Maslow’s “A theory of human motivation.” Psychological Review, 1943, _50_, pp 370-396.)

I’d argue that one big practical contribution Maslow made was noting that a simply binary division of things into “needs” and “luxuries” is an oversimplification. While (say) being bored might not be as pressing an issue as (say) being terrified that the enemy’s going to shell you, it’s still the case that when lower needs are met, higher ones manifest themselves– and if they themselves go unmet, there will be real distress. It’s a counter to the whole “WHAT? When I was your age, I was living in a shoe box and eating rats I caught with the bones I scavenged from the grave of your Aunt Susan! You don’t have to do that! You CAN’T be unhappy! You must be crazy!” dynamic.

From what I recall in studying said hierarchy in undergrad as a psych major, the point of the hierarchy is that if the lower needs are not met, people can’t think about the higher ones. Thus, a kid in a war-ravaged country is not thinking about self-respect; he is thinking about finding clean water. His biggest worry will be whether his house is still there when he gets home, not whether people like him. I don’t think it’s really intended to describe people in prospering countries where you will *voluntarily* give up the lower needs in order to attain higher ones. And really, the foregoing sleep and problems with eating you describe are more problems of self-esteem and achievement than problems of food or sleep themselves, if that makes sense.

My favorite thing about this hierarchy is that in his writing Maslow said three people — total, in the history of ever — have achieved the very top tier, and he was one of them. One of the other two was Gandhi; I forget the third. But come on! Awesome!

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