Maslow Hierarchy of Needs and Critics

December 14, 2011

Maslow andhis theory about the hierarchy of needs, have its own critics. But unfortunately, many of his critics have not read Maslow’s books and articles. They also don’t know that Maslow’s theory is just like other theories. It doesn’t want to answer all human questions and solve all human problems. It’s just a theory, but it’s a good clue. It does nothing about the tragedy of life and its bitter truths, but it can prevent many humans from making huge mistakes. It doesn’t answer to the existential issues, many fundamental questions, and many other things that annoy humans, but it can be helpful. The basis of Maslow’s motivation theory is that human beings are motivated by unsatisfied needs, and that certain lower factors need to be satisfied before higher needs can be satisfied. But Maslow clearly said: “Remember, every action or behavior is not motivated by needs or desires, and everyone is not motivated by same needs”. Maslow’s writings clearly show that he was a wise and very open-minded people. Some say: “Maslow believed that brutality is not what human nature is meant to be like. Aggression and other evils occur when human needs are dissatisfied. Maslow thought that many people lie, deceive and steal not because they enjoy doing it, but because they have unsatisfied needs.” It’s really a modern view. And Maslow was among the first humans who had this view. Maybe, some people enjoy doing evil jobs; they are called “psychopath”, “sadist”. “human monster”, etc. But maybe the human monsters have unsatisfied needs, too. Some critics and wise people ask good questions like: “Does everyone have the potential to develop their higher psychological needs or do some people prefer to stop lower down the Maslow’s pyramid?” Maslow could see that some people just stop at the bottom of the pyramid. Its reasons are not clear, but we all can see that some people don’t care about the higher needs. In Iran, you can see that some of these people are disappointed in themselves. They think they can’t succeed in satisfying their higher needs, so they give up and prefer to close their eyes and try to enjoy their life with focusing on the animal needs. They only care about food, s-e-x, property, etc because they don’t want to bother about the unsatisfied higher needs and this fact that they are not happy or satisfied. They just try to deceive themselves. It doesn’t mean that they prefer the lower needs. They are really unsatisfied and unhappy. Maybe, if they know more about the hierarchy of needs, they can find a solution for themselves. As Maslow said, self-actualization is about the quest of reaching one’s full potential as a human. Unlike lower level needs, this need is never fully satisfied; as one grows psychologically there are always new opportunities to continue to grow. Self-actualized people tend to have motivators such as: Truth, Justice, Wisdom, Meaning, etc. Since the ancient time, the wise guys could see that the lower level needs are cheap and nasty and can’t bring happiness or good feelings to us. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is depicted as a pyramid consisting of some levels: the first four lower levels are grouped together as ‘Deficiency Needs’, while the top levels are termed ‘Being Needs’. “But do the human needs have 5 levels or 8 levels or more levels?” some critics ask. Most citations of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs list only five levels. But Maslow added two levels in his 1970 revision to his 1954 book, Motivation and Personality. These two levels are: -Needs to know and understand & -Aesthetic needs. After Maslows death, others took up his work, and over time, they list eight levels for Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as follow : (1)Physiological needs (2) Safety needs (3) Love and belonging needs (4) Esteem needs (5) Cognitive needs (knowledge, curiosity, understanding, self-awareness, etc) (6) Aesthetic needs (beauty, sensory stimulation, etc) (7)
Self-actualization needs (8)Transcendence needs (helping others to achieve self-actualization, global concerns, etc). Now it has accepted as Maslow’s pyramid, but the needs pyramid can have more than 8 levels.


In fact, the pyramid’s levels and the whole idea can be improved in the future, but it’s so obvious that at the present time the number of pyramid’s levels is not as important as the basic concept. The basic concept is that we, the humans, have a hierarchy of needs, that can have ‘X’ levels, and the higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus once the needs that are lower down in the pyramid are mainly or partially satisfied. This basic idea is very important. It can learn humans many things, can answer many questions, and can prevent the people from wasting their life and making big mistakes. For instance, it can tell you that you should not work like dog from morning to night in 20 or 30 years, only for buying a house, a car, etc. These things don’t make you happy, as you think now. After a short time, many higher needs emerge and you can only be sorry for wasting 20 or 30 years. But you could avoid making this sort of mistakes, if you already knew about the hierarchy of needs. People, who have most of their basic needs fulfilled, often try to buy very luxurious cars or very big houses because doing so raises their level of self-esteem or respect. But if they knew about the Deficiency Needs and the higher needs, they would not waste their life on this sort of stupid things. Maslow’s theory is a good clue, and can learn humans many things. Wasting life and time on the animal needs in the low levels of the pyramid is a huge mistake that can be avoided. The modern society should help all its citizens to satisfy their low level needs. But when you have enough money for living a moderate life, and your basic needs are partially satisfied in a way that you have not serious problems, it’s better that you don’t waste your short life on the low level needs. You can waste your whole life on the low level needs for fulfilling them 100 percent, and for reaching to : “Oh, such a waste of time. Why I’m not happy and satisfied now? Why I think those needs are so stupid now? Why I have many important unsatisfied needs? Why I think I waste my life?” Unfortunately, many people become trapped at the basic levels of the pyramid because they are surrounded by a culture which reinforces the message that happiness can only be secured through the accumulation of wealth. But after wasting your whole life on accumulation of wealth and on the basic levels of the pyramid, it’s too late to understand the truth. You can read history; you can use other people’s experiences; and you can read about the scientific theories like Maslow’s theory, and improve your lifestyle before it’s too late. We all can go up the pyramid and reach its summit, if we are wise enough to avoid wasting our life only on the low levels of the pyramid. When even with 30 or 40 percent satisfaction, you can go from level N to level N+1, why should you try to waste your time on reaching 100 or 90 per cent satisfaction in the low levels? It’s really so stupid, but unfortunately many do this stupid job. Sometimes, you have to say no, and should not listen to what the media, the family, or the majority dictate. Some historians say: “Maslow bowed to his parents’ wishes to study law, and enrolled himself in the City College of New York for this purpose. However, it soon became clear to him that law was not his vocation in life. Finally, he decided to rebel against his parents. He selected a vocation that was closer to his heart. He decided to jump into Psychology.”


Maslow and others wrote about behaviors that lead to the pyramid’s summit, like: Avoiding pretense (‘game playing’) and being honest; Trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths; Listening to your own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition, fashion, authority or the majority; Being prepared to be unpopular if your views do not coincide with those of the majority; Taking responsibility and working hard; etc. In fact, living like sheep and following the fashion only waste your life on the basic levels of the pyramid. Maslow writes of self-actualizing people that: They are creative; They are spontaneous in their ideas and actions; They judge others without prejudice; They need for privacy and comfortable being alone; They have a few close intimate friends rather than many surface relationships; They accept themselves and others for what they are; They have sense of humor; They have Democratic attitudes; They have strong moral /ethical standards; They are concerned for the welfare of humanity; etc. These great humans can build a very very better world, if they are in the majority. And that’s why all people should ask the governments to provide the basic needs (at least the first two levels of Maslow’s pyramid) for all humans. In this way, the majority can reach the self-actualization’s level. Yes, maybe, some prefer the animal life and the low levels of the pyramid. Maybe, some have a special pyramid, something like the above picture. But there are serious doubts that they are happy or satisfied. But those who want to have a human life and a better and meaningful life, can avoid making huge mistakes. Maslow, history, your own experiences, and other human experiences show you that wasting your life on the low levels of the pyramid is a huge mistake. They show you that there is no difference between, for instance, 40% satisfaction in the low levels of the pyramid (deficiency needs) and 100% satisfaction. The first four levels of the pyramid are called ‘Deficiency Needs’, because only the lack or shortage of these needs hurt us and make serious problems. If you dont have enough of them, you have a deficit, and you feel the need. But when you get enough, you feel nothing at all ! and the deficiency needs become so stupid and meaningless. It’s exactly like eating food or drinking water. When you are hungry to thirsty, one plate of food or one bottle of water are vital and can make you happy. But the next plates or the next bottles, are not like the first one. And when you are full and have had enough food or water, eating extra food or drinking extra water is disgusting and can’t make you happy (s-e-x, money, etc are like this, too). But it’s so stupid that some are only eager to have extra plate or extra bottle. While some have eaten or drunk enough and try to continue climbing up the pyramid, some ask over and over for extra plate and extra bottle. Some even reach 100th plate or 1000th bottle, and some even choke themselves or kill themselves. When one plate, or two plates, or five plates of food is enough, why you waste your time on asking for 100th plate of food?! When there is no difference between, for instance, 40% satisfaction in the low levels of the pyramid and 100% satisfaction, why should you waste your short life or your time and energy on the animal needs of the pyramid? It can be a helpful hint for all people in all around the world, including the greedy rich. The stupid greedy rich and others should know about what Maslow said. In fact, the graph of ‘the total wealth and being happy’ has just one peak, and after that your level of happiness and satisfaction decreases when your total wealth increases. Some say this peak is somewhere between $100,000 to $100 million. But the peak’s whereabouts is not important; the whole idea and the basic concept (what Maslow said 60 years ago) are very important. All humans, from the OWS protesters to other protesters in all around the world can pay more attention to these matters.