There is some evidence that ontogeny parallels phylogeny as far as cognitive development is concerned. What this means is that the same stages or steps that a species has evolved through also recur when the embryo develops into a fully functioning adult. In other words, developmental stages and states follow the same sequence as evolutionary stages. This may be because the environment is structured in such a way that some stages can only make sense when preceding stages have been already encountered.
To illustrate, if pain was the first sensation that animals could first sense and feel; then probably it will be the first emotion that babies and infants can feel. Amusement if it comes later to pain in evolutionary history, then probably amusement only starts being felt by babies once they have already felt pain. Would that also make pain more primary or basic than amusement? I believe so.
Taking cue form that, it may be possible to go one stage further and claim that adult structure/ hierarchy of a particular construct will follow the developmental stages or time-course. To continue with our example, if pain occurs earlier in babies than pleasure, then in adulthood, losses which are sensitive to pain will be more basic and drive our choices than gains which are sensitive to pleasure. We will first need to fulfill our need to avoid pain and then only be motivated by our desire for pleasure. The bad is stronger than the good.
To extend this analogy to personality, let us consider a developmental theory of personality- Erkison’s Psychsocial stage theory. As per it people go through various stages , right from infancy to old age, grappling with many developemental challenges and either coming out successful or failing to master the developmental challenge. At each stage one can discern some basic needs that when fulfilled lead to successful closure with regards to that stage.
Trust vs mistrust: at this stage if the need for security that the infant has is fulfilled, he ends up being trustful.
Autonomy vs shame and doubt: at this stage its important to develop a sense of self worth and self esteem by being autonomous. If however his sense of self worth is questioned he ends up feeling shameful.
Initiative vs guilt: at this stage its important to take care of need for play and creativity; if however the child’s playful actions lead to harm or are condemned, then this may lead to guilt.
Industry vs inferiority: at this stage its important for the child to ‘work’ and get respect/ approval of others thereof; failure to be productive leads to feelings of inferiority.
Identity vs role confusion: at this stage its important to have a sense of coherence, especially about oneself and ones role; failure of which leads to role confusion.
intimacy vs isolation: at this stage the need for loving and being loved has to be fulfilled, else you end up being isolated and lonely.
Generativity vs stagnation: at this stage the need for self-actualization drives one to grow and reach one’s full potential in service to the world, failing which one remains stagnant.
Ego integrity vs despair: at this stage, as you reflect on your life, you are driven by need for self-transcendence failing which you end up in despair.
Its easy to see how a hierarchy similar to Maslow’s can be derived from this. Leaving the physiological needs aside, at the bottom of hierarchy would be needs related to security, followed by needs for self-worth/esteem; then needs for play and creativity; followed by needs for respect and achievement; followed by need for coherence; then need for love; then need for self-actualization and finally on top need for self-transcendence.
I think this is a proposition worth investigating and I am sure one will find a hierarchy of needs that is rooted in developmental stages and which themselves are rooted in evolutionary stages.
Most of us are familiar with the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs . Though we tend to think of them as five basic needs, Maslow had modified the hierarchy later to include three other needs at the top taking the total to eight. The modified diagram is given below.
Out of these, the first four needs, Maslow identified as deficit needs: i.e if the needs are not met, they make us uncomfortable and we are motivated or driven by these needs in as much as we are able to sufficiently fulfill these needs.
The last four needs, he identifies as growth needs: i.e. we never get enough of these . We are constantly motivated by these needs as they pertain to our growth and development.
He also arranged them in a hierarchy such that we are motivated primarily by a need only if lower level needs have been met. Thus, before one is motivated by cognitive or self actualization needs, one should have taken care of basic deficit needs like physiological, security, belonging and esteem.
Now, everyone knows I am sold to the eight stage developmental model. As such I see clear parallels here between developmental tasks that are achieved and needs that are met.
Let me now present the eight Maslow needs and explain it using analogies form other eight stage models.
Physiological needs: These are the basic animal needs for such things as food, warmth, shelter, sex, water, and other body needs. If a person is hungry or thirsty or his body is chemically unbalanced, all of his energies turn toward remedying these deficiencies, and other needs remain inactive. If one’s basic biological needs are not met, one would never be able to trust the environment and would be stuck with high neuroticism and anxiety.
Safety needs:With his physical needs relatively satisfied, the individual’s safety needs take over and dominate his behavior. These needs have to do with man’s yearning for a predictable, orderly world in which injustice and inconsistency are under control, the familiar frequent, and the unfamiliar rare. This need for consistency, if not satisfied leads to feelings of doubt and shame (as opposed to feelings of autonomy or being in control) and lead to high conscientiousness or need for discipline and orderliness.
Belonging needs:After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third layer of human needs is social. This psychological aspect of Maslow’s hierarchy involves emotionally-based relationships in general, such as friendship, sexual intimacy and having a supportive and communicative family. If one finds failure in having such close relationships, one is bedeviled with such negative social emotions like guilt (vis a vis initiative) and has low extraversion values.
Self-esteem needs: All humans have a need to be respected, to have self-esteem, self-respect, and to respect others. People need to engage themselves to gain recognition and have an activity or activities that give the person a sense of contribution, to feel accepted and self-valued, be it in a profession or hobby. This need if not satisfied leads to feelings of inferiority vis-a-vis feelings of industry. Feelings of inferiority in turn may lead to low agreeableness.
Cognitive needs:Maslow believed that humans have the need to increase their intelligence and thereby chase knowledge. Cognitive needs is the expression of the natural human need to learn, explore, discover and create to get a better understanding of the world around them.This growth need for self-actualization and learning, when not fulfilled leads to confusion and identity crisis. Also, this is directly related to need to explore or the openness to experience.
Aesthetic needs: Based on Maslow’s beliefs, it is stated in the hierarchy that humans need beautiful imagery or something new and aesthetically pleasing to continue up towards Self-Actualization. Humans need to refresh themselves in the presence and beauty of nature while carefully absorbing and observing their surroundings to extract the beauty that the world has to offer. This need is a higher level need to relate in a beautiful way with the environment and leads to the beautiful feeling of intimacy with nature and everything beautiful.
Self-actualization needs: Self-actualization is the instinctual need of humans to make the most of their abilities and to strive to be the best they can.This need when fulfilled leads to feeling of generativity.
Self-transcendence needs: Maslow later divided the top of the triangle to add self-transcendence which is also sometimes referred to as spiritual needs. Spiritual Needs are a little different from other needs, accessible from many level. This need when fulfilled, leads to feelings of integrity and take things to another level of being.
I, as usual, am quite excited by these parallels and implore my readers to explore this further. In my next post I will be taking about core social motives theory, which like Maslow’s is a needs theory, and how that maps to the five initial stages of development.