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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hierarchy of Needs

In his paper, 'A Theory of Human Motivation.' (originally published in Psychological Review, 1943) A. H. Maslow says that, 'Man is a perpetually wanting animal.' and adds that ' need or drive can be treated as if it were isolated or discrete; every drive is related to the state of satisfaction or dissatisfaction of other drives.'

It is interesting to note that he studied exemplary people such as Albert Einstein, Jane Addams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Frederick Douglass rather than mentally ill or neurotic people, writing that "the study of crippled, stunted, immature, and unhealthy specimens can yield only a cripple psychology and a cripple philosophy." (Source: Wikipedia)

Maslow's theory, also known as the, 'Hierarchy of needs' describes at least five sets of goals, which we may call basic needs. These are briefly: physiological, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization.
(Source :Wikipedia)

"These basic goals are related to each other, being arranged in a hierarchy of prepotency. This means that the most prepotent goal will monopolize consciousness and will tend of itself to organize the recruitment of the various capacities of the organism. The less prepotent needs are minimized, even forgotten or denied. But when a need is fairly well satisfied, the next prepotent ('higher') need emerges, in turn to dominate the conscious life and to serve as the center of organization of behavior, since gratified needs are not active motivators. "

So, when you are at the cross roads of life and wondering - 'Why does the address, which once meant a hallowed precinct to me, is just another milestone in my life now?' -you probably are waiting to rise to the next higher datum plane of existence. Find it and be it.


dolby said...

In simple terms, the "I" comes first.

dolby said...

If you are more interested in human behavior/mentality/attitude, i would highly recommend you to go through these sites. Because this "Maslow" stuff is something i have already dig'd deep enough long time before. Go through the sites, let me know what connection you see? May be you may not notice!

Anonymous said...

Just for the sake of quick connections the links provided by dolby are here:




Its been a while since I came here.. Psychology, my namesake, is the most facinating study! & sometimes, Economics is more interesting! Truth be told, all of it goes together..

The more you read of a subject - be it physics, biology or a person, the more interested you get in it.. the more facinated you are by its existance, and corelate its meaning.. Education! Knowledge!

Maslows has always got me thinking too! When will man / woman be happy? He dint know then.. We dont know now.. :-)

ILA said...

//In simple terms, the "I" comes first.//

@ Dolby..
You made it to so simple

nabeel said...

hmmm,i like the content of this blog.
its very difficult to study human physcology,the more you study the more question arises...needs and priority change from person to person.

take care and always keep smiling

God bless you&ur family

passer by said...

wow.. thats some profound thought..

Aparna Kar said...

@passer by
Borrowed wit. :D But I subscribe to the theory. Self- realization, life as a continuous process of evolution etc

Aparna Kar said...

Thanks. Keep visiting :)

Aparna Kar said...

Psychology and Economics have become my favorite subjects too. Of all things I have learned so far, the human mind seems to be the most fascinating of all- with its endless possibilities. Someone once told me that when we prove deeper- science and arts and faith and beliefs all lose their boundaries and become an astonishing mix.

And I agree with you: "When will man / woman be happy? He dint know then.. We dont know now.. :-)" But we invent ways - and sometimes we believe that we know- maybe this is what life is all about :)

Aparna Kar said...

Will get back to you when I have browsed through the links you have provided..

dolby said...

I dont know how the "I" mentioned in first comment was took by you. Anyway to make it clear, according to Maslow triangle regarding the Physiological needs, as copied from Maslow Theory

"The physiological needs of the organism (those enabling homeostasis) take first precedence. These consist mainly of (in order of importance):

* Breathing
* Drinking
* Eating
* Sleep
* Excretion
* Sex

If some needs are not fulfilled, a person's physiological needs take the highest priority. Physiological needs can control thoughts and behaviors and can cause people to feel sickness, pain and discomfort."

I completely agree with this part. But there is a difference in applying this to current scenario. When man was more like animal or when he was in the infant stage of becoming HUMAN, i would have agreed completely with this. In today's situation, i do see a virtual layer very below the Physiological layer. Does that mean there is something more important than the very base physiological need? To be frank i dont know but i would bet 50% "YES" on that.

MONEY: We are not any more cavemen who can go around pick and eat anything we want, live anywhere we want. But there are some, we
will come to that soon. We can leave aside the "breathing" "sleep" apart. I am not sure about "sex". I do agree, even though if a man is given a billion dollar or 100 dollar he will try to satisfy first only those basic needs. The point is, in today's world where money has become an integral part of our life, fulfilling our basic needs also comes with a cost. People say money is not everything. I know money is not everything but i know its something. (Read as I was proven). Considering the theory being proposed in 1943, i am wondering how this MONEY factor is missed. Not only that.

The second in the hierarchy is "SAFETY"

Ideally, in today’s world nothing safe but we all feel safe as per what our mind feel as safe zone. "Of employment", if so i wish i could see the "EDUCATION" in between "SAFETY" and "PHYSIOLOGY".

Coming to the "I" part, I hope by now you must have gone through the links i gave. The 2 links for china earthquake, it’s the same scenario and its about 2 teachers. One teacher runs out for his life leaving behind the children and the other came up to put forward his life to save some. The one who escaped said in the interview "I admire heroes like Mr. Tan, but I can't do that myself. I love my life more." Perfect and i see Maslow theory here. What about the other? If personal safety is foremost concern then why the other teacher knowingly gave his life for saving others? It's not just these 2 incidents which made me baffling about human mind. I have seen and i am seeing the existence and non-existence of this hierarchy hand in hand. So for me the hierarchy itself becomes a question. I do agree on those needs but they are not hierarchal rather they are cluttered one.

When I said “I” comes first, I meant it’s an option for me to choose one from those cluttered choices I was given. Sometime I compromise on the “Physiological” need even though they are the basic. Consider your case as well as mine. We are sitting 10000miles from our family, why? Does that mean we have our needs in the third step “Love/Belonging” is fulfilled? I am here earning money and actually I am fulfilling my second phase “SAFETY” and very basic needs, compromising to an extent the other stuff above and below.

I don’t know how many times you have seen sun set or sun rise continuously for a week or so. But I have. It’s the same sun and it’s the same phenomena but every time I see “rise” or “set” it’s just unique. So is my mind. (Others too) I also see that my uniqueness is perfect random where the situation I am in, plays a very very important role. Even though I have come across similar kind of situation in the recent past I know well how differently I acted. It was that “I” factor which made me to act differently and choose one from those cluttered choices I could opt.

Non-conclusively, when I can’t even generalize my own action as they very tightly coupled with the situation and surrounding factor, I am not going to accept anything in generic especially “The Human Mind/Behavior”. Even Maslow said “My generalizations grew out of my selection of certain kinds of people.”

For theories about human mind, if 99 people out of 100 behaved the same way that doesn’t mean it’s the generic way the approach would be. At certain point with different situation and surrounding you can the see the colorful 100 different behavior from the same 100 people.

To sum up, esp redg human behavior, psychology, etc “What’s known is nothing and unknown is everything”

Hey btw if want to know how 5 people can look into 6 different direction “you are cordially invited for our team meeting” People watching is FUN you know! ;-)

PS: This reply was compromised for my coffee time. I was really in a hurry so any typo's be forgiven

Crimson Shimmer said...


i abs hate explanations, equations, theories, hypothesis, excuses 4 human behaviour. its just too diverse.

how have you been lady... :)

Comfortably Numb said...

I just don't think that life is as complicated for us to think and write about it a lot. Its not as fussy as people portray it to be:P. I hate losers who spend the major portion of their life cribbing and complaining how busy/sore life is. Learn to enjoy it :)


saikat said...

what i have realized over time....needs have no order...its purely an instinctive behaviour and need arousal, which dominates our life...

how many of us live for tomorrow...and those who live..keep on living for that tomorrow, which never comes in this rat race...

passer by said...

your post would have been more insightful had you quoted examples readers are nondescript common men who would identify with day to day examples rather draw inspiration from super humans like an einstein,

a common example would be say a govt. servant who wanted to give his kids a good foundation but each foundation seemed a milestone and in the end he did a a much better job.. our life is full of such people..

now construct :) on that..

Aparna Kar said...

@passer by
You take your job seriously. Thanks :) I will try to work on it.

Aparna Kar said...

I agree - needs need not have a definite order- but you will probably acquiesce to the fact that - when we are young, our needs are very basic : physical and emotional security. ( the first two tiers of Maslow's pyramid ) Also, infants and children react to threats of safety more uninhibitedly than adults - like flashing of lights, thunderstorms, loud noises etc and hence it's easier to observe it then. With evolution, our needs become complicated and turn more inward. The physical domain is hardly recognized as a 'need' even. Our psychological gratification becomes our primary concern and we do whatever we deem fit to achieve an end.

I used the term 'rat race' too loosely too. But now I realize that trying to earn a respectable living by doing something honest is nothing to be ashamed of. It's true that your passion might lie in something else other than your job- and sooner or later you would want to make your passion your job. The self-actualization phase - where you'd want to do what you are fitted for.

Aparna Kar said...

@Comfortably Numb
Enjoying every bit of it :)

Aparna Kar said...

@Crimson Shimmer
Been good, thank you.:) I don't think everything can be explained either - but some theories are interesting. They tag well with your perceptions. This one is surely akin to my thought processes and views about human motivation.

Aparna Kar said...

Money is not a need. It is a means to satisfy your needs.

About that incident in China- there are psychological 'aberrations' (if u may) observed in cases of a natural mother trying to save her child when threatened with danger. It is one of the most debated topics of sociological behavior. Some argue that it is a selfish act to let the progeny live, while others state it is more than a voluntary decision - it is something heroic 'cause self-preservation becomes secondary. I have admitted before that no theory can completely explain the variegation of human mind- but some theories are simply interesting and in sync with your own realizations.

Forget the typos, thanks for sacrificing your caffeine :)

dolby said...

hmmm "Money is not a need"... as i said "Money is not everything but i do realized money is something"... anyway the thing i wanted u to know is "From my perception i don't see "Hierarchy" rather i see them all as nothing but clutter of choices"

This Maslow stuff and few things related to this are something i thought long back. actually i would still thnk u for bearing my typo's and providing me an option to let it out here...

Waiting for your story :-)

Ailu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ailu said...

I agree with Maslow.

saikat said...

Appu...if i understand the theory correctly...maslow made an assumption that the hiearchy is always there irrespective of age...but what i infer from my so called existence is that...for everone at varied age levels...the hiearchy keeps on changing orders...

rat race ahem...well a term is just a term...i would rather term it as a run accross the tunnel...u know the light is there somewhere at the end....but u dont know how far....u run..just run


Aparna Kar said...

Agreed. But Maslow himself pointed out that some needs are more observable in children than in adults. Hee Hee.. I like that tunnel thingie. It is a happier concept than a rat race :)

Known Stranger said...

reminds me of my industrial pshycology paper read in engineering