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Maslow’s motivational hierarchy revisited

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Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Resized, renamed,...
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I’ve written previously about Maslow’s motivational hierarchy and how that relates to the eight stage evo-devo model. Most people are familiar with the 5 motivational basic needs/motives theory of Maslow, but are not aware that he had later revised it to include eight basic needs/ motives.

A recent paper by Krenrick et al also discusses the more popular 5 motivational scheme of Maslow and revamps the model by dropping self-actualization at the top and making room for 3 reproduction related motives -mate attraction, mate retention and parenting.  Regular readers will note that this is inline with the eight stages discussed during life-history theory based perspectives on this blog.

This new paper, which is available in full on authors website, is an important contribution and gets many things right, though I believe that safety need should trump physiological needs and that we need an eighth motive/need which would be related to finding meaning/purpose/transcendence .

Anyway, lets first see what a motivational system is:

Throughout this article, we have used the terms needs, motives, and goals somewhat loosely. Our view of motivational systems follows that of evolutionary theorists such as Plutchik (1980) and Scott (1980), with connections to the views of the original evolutionary psychologists such as William James (1890) and McDougall (1908) and to Carver and Scheier’s (1998) cybernetic view. On that view, any motivational system includes (a) a template for recognizing a particular class of relevant environmental threats or opportunities, (b) inner motivational/ physiological states designed to mobilize relevant resources, (c) cognitive decision rules designed to analyze trade-offs inherent in various prepotent responses, and (d) a set of responses designed to respond to threats or opportunities represented by the environmental inputs (i.e., to achieve adaptive goals).

To elaborate, and link with the ABCD model of psychology, desire/motivation forms a big sub-domain of psychology,m but motivation.desire can itself be broken into 1)Affective components (a template for recognizing a particular class of relevant environmental threats or opportunities) 2) Behavioral components ( a set of responses designed to respond to threats or opportunities represented by the environmental inputs) 3) Cognitive components (cognitive decision rules designed to analyze trade-offs inherent in various prepotent responses) and 4) Desire / motivation proper ( inner motivational/ physiological states designed to mobilize relevant resources).

The motivational system itself can be analyzed at different levels of analysis-Proximate reasons for a behavior and ultimate reasons for a behavior. The different levels of analysis include  evolutionary (ultimate), developmental, situational (proximate) and phenomenological.  These concern with the biological context, the ecological context , the cultural context and the personological context respective;y in which a (human) being functions.

Kenrcik et al consider the evolutionary ,  developmental and proximate mechanisms and level of analysis and use that to refine the Maslow’s ladder and that makes sense and is more or less inline with the eight stage model.

They also refer to Deci and Ryan and their intrinsic motives and I like to think of deci and Ryan motives as well as addition to that by Daniel pink as follows: 1) autonomy (from genes) 2)  mastery (over environment) 3) Belongingness (to culture) and 4) Purpose ( of self) – these intrinsic drives again related to biology, environment, culture and phenomenology.  Only the last level of analysis need make a reference to consciousness; all prior levels are/may be non-conscious.  I believe the lack of phenomenological level of analysis is limiting and perhaps the reason they miss the eight and highest motive.

The authors, apart from adding new motives of mate attraction. mate retention and parenting, also stress the point that these are overlapping/ can be activated simultaneously and do not necessarily follow developmental stages.

The original article itself is accompanied by commentaries and Kenrick himself maintains a blog and has written a  couple of blog posts related to this, so there are no excuses for not reading up more on this.

Douglas T. Kenrick,, Vladas Griskevicius,, Steven L. Neuberg, & Mark Schaller (2010). Renovating the Pyramid of Needs
Contemporary Extensions Built Upon Ancient Foundations Perspectives on Psychological science DOI: 10.1177/1745691610369469

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Maslow’s eight basic needs and the eight stage developmental model

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

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