Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

The Hierarchy of Needs is a model that was developed by an American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, in the 1940s and 50s.

It’s normally described as a pyramid, with your most basic, fundamental physical human needs (eg food, drink, sleep, shelter) at the bottom.

Next level up is your need to feel secure and safe, protected from fear.

The level above that is where your emotional needs sit – affection, belonging, and a sense of being valued and important. And when you have the respect of others, you can develop a stronger sense of self-respect and self-esteem.

At the very top of the pyramid is ‘self actualisation‘ – where you become your ideal self, reaching your full potential and engaging with life with spontaneity and creativity.

The basic idea is that if there isn’t a strong foundation built up from the bottom of the pyramid (like you don’t feel safe because your Dad beats you, or you don’t know when you’ll get your next meal, or no-one ever tells you that they love you), then you won’t be able to achieve the higher levels, and you won’t be motivated to try to achieve them.

The stronger the foundation layers of your pyramid, the more you can build on it.

It’s a model that’s often used in child development and in business development – for kids, it demonstrates all the things parents or teachers need to fulfil in order for their kids to grow to their full potential. In business development, the argument goes that if you want your employees (and therefore your business) to reach full potential then you need to fulfil the basic needs – starting with a watercooler and a comfortable workstation, through to job security and feeling valued and celebrated in the workplace.

You can’t be the best you can be (kid or employee) unless your needs are met.

There are two main criticisms:

1. perhaps these needs aren’t actually a hierarchy, but are equally important, or perhaps in a web of connections, rather than a pyramid

2. the model makes sense in very individualist societies (like the States or the UK) but it might not be as relevant in other cultures where your personal achievement isn’t as important as the family’s achievement, or your husband’s achievement, or the collective success of the village.

What do you think? I think the model is quite useful, even though it’s got its problems. It’s also a way of measuring what kind of damage might have occured for a child who hasn’t had a good start in life. Children like Oksana, John and Sujit who are featured in the series.

Language Acquisition The brain has periods of critical development.  In the language acquisition period you develop the capacity to analyse speech patterns and learn to decode them.  Only then can you start to mimic them, store them and start to use them creatively.

Concepts of Self

Harry Harlow’s experiments on physical comfort and privation

3 thoughts on “Psychology

  1. Melissa Rivas

    Maslow’s model does have holes. Not only was it written at a time and in a place that is much different than the realities of even America or the UK now, but,as you stated, does not reflect the cultural differences individuals will experience. I think it’s loosely appropriate. I also tthink it may be less a pyramid, and more a changeable linear graph where the specific needs are higher or lower based in individual cases. I know that it seems pretty obvious,and I’m not saying anything huge here. I think in this country, we put so much importance on achieving these lofty goals for each of us individually, the rest of the world and it’s people get washed into the background. As you wrote, in other countries,in other cultures, individual achievement affects the family,or even the community as a whole. Even if we decide that our ideal form of achievement is to do something for the greater good, we would be seen as foolish if we were to do so if we ourselves wouldn’t somehow also benefit. I think this is one of the reasons that there is such a fascination with such children and their rehabilitation in this country. I don’t think many people here are cut out to be able to intervene in such a situation here. Hell, there are so many agencies and homes for people in this country for people with even mild issues that famous feel put out by. My husband works with men on the autistic spectrum. Some of them were abandoned, abused, or neglected for much of their lives because their families couldn’t (or wouldn’t) handle their disability. Where if they had the ability to have intervention early and a support system, many of these guys would be so so much more high functioning. But since we are all so self focused, it’s rare that others step up to help. Places in the world where the community holds each other up, I believe, the individual has more of a shot at real happiness and understanding, and therefore, it’s in those areas where I would think, kids who were feral, would stand a better chance. I’ve seen a couple episodes of your show and I’ve seen there it’s come down to an individual who took interest to turn the tides. But in both cases,if the community didn’t step in,the one person who made that difference, wouldn’t have had the chance to intervene. In this country, I can’t help but think a kid would be subject to institutions and legal red tape and likely wouldn’t progress in the ways the two young men on your show have. The needs on the model in this article,while applying to each of these cases, I don’t see applying in the same levels that are proposed by Maslow.

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  3. Stephanie Ellison

    You have to understand that the model of hierarchical needs is a White-based, superiority-rooted way of looking at people from a civilized human perspective. As I alluded to in my message to you, I never successfully assimilated, not even acculturated into Christianity because of that innateness within me that says, “Me first.” I am trying to make sense of what I am, because I lived under unusual circumstances, being deaf for so long before intervention that I can remember nearly all of it.


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