Tag Archives: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Transcend: Standing on the shoulders of Maslow

This post is a book review of ‘Transcend: The new science of self-actualization ‘ by Scott Barry Kaufman. He, and his publishers, were kind enough to send an advance copy and I think the review is just in time, as the book is formally published, and the virtual book tour gets kick-started.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and emerged wiser and kinder for having read it. I am not sure how far I am, or my reader is, on the path to self transcendence, but whatever may be your current station on your journey, you will find some much needed guidance and help here. At least I did.

The book on the outset is about Maslow and his hierarchy of needs and how self actualization and self transcendence fit in, but its also a tour de force of all that is worth knowing about the latest advances in positive psychology, humanistic psychology and various other aspects like existential psychology. More than mere re-conceptualizing Maslow’s concept of needs, and validating his insights using cutting edge finding in psychology, it is also a culmination of Scott’s interests and expertise in a holistic book form. The magnum opus of whole person psychology that Scott has produced is indeed a ‘whole’ book (pun intended).

First off, lets clarify some misunderstandings about the hierarchy of needs. Most people believe that Maslow had himself arranged them into a pyramid of five needs of inflexible ordering , and while I myself have shown them as pyramid in my earlier posts, I have at least had the good sense of highlighting self transcendence needs early on and at the top. Scott clarifies and adds nuance by distinguishing between security/deficit needs, growth needs and actualization/transcendence needs and illustrates all this with a beautiful sailboat metaphor.

While security needs like safety, connection and self esteem make the body of the sailboat, and their purpose is to make it steady ; the sail that powers and gives direction to the boat is made up of growth needs of exploration, love and purpose.

The book elaborates on all theses needs drawing inspiration from Maslow who is extensively quoted, as well as other prominent psychologists lke Carl Rogers, Karen Horney, Eric Fromm etc ; however the book is only part nostalgia about these great thinkers, it also draws on latest research findings to make its point.

The book contains extensive self assessments to figure where you stand on each of these and other needs/ concepts and helpful tips on what you can do thereof to make sure your needs are optimally fulfilled and are not thwarted. The 2 appendices are really excellent and should not be skipped; the second appendix that lists many (positive, as well as other) psychological interventions should be definitely explored and imbibed in ones daily life.

Scott’s personality shines thorugh the book, and so does Abe’s ; While Scott wanted this as a tribute to Abe, he has indeed stood on the shoulders of that giant and come out on its own – the book integrates various strands of Scott’s expertise, interests and humanism and weaves into a very palatable feast. However , at some places I felt the integration was a bit sketchy or far fetched – for example linking hope, grit, smart goals etc under purpose seemed a bit contrived. But of course as Scott has such expertise in all these topics that one juts loves reading about them and doesn’t mind the apparent disconnect with the topic at hand.

Scott’s and Abe’s message is something that needs to be told and retold, again and again, and I am so glad that Scott took it upon himself to clarify misconceptions about Abe as well as to shine a light on such an imprtnat topic of self transcendence. Here is wishing the book all the success it deserves. Well done, Scott! You are truly a giant!

Basic Needs: The Maslow-Erikson Mashup

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.

To illustrate:

  1. Trust vs mistrust: at this stage if the need for security that the infant has is fulfilled, he ends up being trustful.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.


Research Summaries: Costs and Benefits of Consuming

I am toying around with a new idea of providing research summaries for a few select articles that I read and find interesting. Do let me know if you find them useful. The idea is that one could read the research summary to get a good idea about the paper and then decide to dig deeper into the original source if one’s interest has been piqued sufficiently. The research summaries would be short and neither a substitute for the original article nor a copy n paste of the abstract.

So here is the first of the research summaries. The paper is Costs and Benefits of Consuming by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and you can read it here.

English: The Good Work Team: William Damon, Mi...

English: The Good Work Team: William Damon, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Howard Gardner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The big ideas:

  1. Most consumer behavior, like eating a steak, creates some entropy in the world. The world moves from more organization (energy captured in creating and processing steak) to less organization (waste products after the steak has been digested). This entropy increase is directed at, and matched by, fulfillment of the needs of the consumer. However the energy/entropy gained by consumer, by satisfaction of needs, is typically less than the energy/entropy lost by objects of consumption; hence the need to assess and balance the costs and benefits of consumption.
  2. If the entire world consumed at levels of that found in US/ Western Europe, it will take two more earth sized planets to fulfill those energy needs; hence the importance of the issue at hand.
  3. Consumer needs can be classified into two buckets: those that are existential in nature and arise from basic needs common to all humans, which need to be fulfilled; and experiential needs which are related to ‘killing of time’ or filling the void of doing nothing, by consuming and thus focusing consciousness on something external.
  4. Existential needs can be further broken up based on Mas low’s hierarchy of needs. While survival and safety needs may be essential for proper functioning and thus justified; love and belonging needs of ‘keeping up with Joneses’ or self-esteem needs satisfied by having material possessions like a Ferrari car are more questionable. Self-actualization needs, by emphasizing growth and mastery, may not lead to much consumer behavior.
  5. Experiential needs arise form a need to keep consciousness focused on a goal directed activity; around 30 % of the time , college teens spend time in a zone where they have ‘nothing to do’. Rumination, and depression/ despair can set in if the consciousness turns inwards and cannot find a suitable external goal to focus on (an idea I am uncomfortable with)- consuming behavior, like shopping, may be one way out of the situation.
  6. There are many negative relations between money and happiness; one such is if you are consuming an energy rich object (like a magazine) as compared to a less-energy object (like a book) you are more likely to be happier reading a book (less energy product) than a magazine (a high energy product); there is a strong negative relation between energy consumption and happiness among women.
  7. He exhorts us to move towards an economy characterized by people consuming less and still maintaining the complexity like a chef, poet, musician etc. He also reiterates the research showing how material consumption does not lead to happiness.

Overall a pretty good morning read. I found this passage particularly resonating and beautiful:

Craftspersons, chefs, athletes, musicians, dancers, teachers, gardeners, artists, healers, poets—these are the workers creating goods that increase human well-being without degrading the complexity of the world. Is it impossible to develop an economy based on a majority of workers of this kind? Where consumption involves the processing of ideas, symbols, and emotional experiences rather than the breakdown of matter? Let us hope this transition is not impossible, because otherwise the future looks grim indeed. And if the transition does come about, the Journal of Consumer Research will be filled with articles about music, art, poetry, and dance—the creative energy of the new economy.

And this passage is timely reminder indeed, and the reason I am writing this post is to disseminate widely the costs of rampant consumerism, without the corresponding hypothesized benefits:

We already know that material possessions alone do not improve the quality of life. We know that excessive concern for material goals is a sign of dissatisfaction with life. We know that trying to avoid the mental chaos of everyday life by resorting to acquisitions and passive entertainment does not work very well. Yet we insist in the vain hope that we can achieve happiness through consumption—regardless of consequences. Certainly one of the greatest services that consumer research can do for humankind is to document these realities, and diffuse them to as wide a public as possible.

Hope you liked the summary; you can read the full text here.

Maslow’s motivational hierarchy revisited


Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Resized, renamed,...
Image via Wikipedia

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

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.