Maslow argued that there is a growth motive in the people that drives them to fulfil the needs that are described above. Maslow based his theory on the fact that all people have an innate good will and that all people are born good and strive to do good things in life both for themselves and for each other. Furthermore, he explained that according to his pyramid, all needs in a previous base have to be fulfilled in order to advance to the next stage. If a need in a lower bases is missing then the person cannot feel the need to grow beyond that base before fulfilling all their needs in previous bases (e.g. if a person does not feel safe in his environment, he cannot feel the need for love and belonging nor the need for esteem, therefore he will be stuck in the safety base until all his needs there are fulfilled.) This is also why few people can reach to the highest point of the pyramid, because people does not have their other needs satisfied throughout the life.
- Evaluate the theory described in part a.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is widely controversial and has throughout the years attracted many criticisms as well as support. Aronoff (1967) investigated the hierarchy of needs on one group of each fishermen and cane cutters. He found that 80% of the fishermen had high self-esteem compared to only 25% of the cane cutters. He explained his results as they were dependant on the job as a fishermen differed from cane cutters in that the fishermen had a more flexible job and flexible wage, therefore someone who sought a job as fishermen had higher hopes even if he knew that the job could be risky, at the same time a person favouring cane cutting is much probably searching for security as the wages are more fixed as cane cutter than a fishermen.
Maslow himself conducted a research in order to find the characteristics of a self-actualised person (Maslow 1970). He researched in the life of famous persons whom he believed were self-actualised (however Maslow emphasised that you don’t have to be famous in order to reach self actualisation). He came up with different characteristics that described self-actualised persons. Similar research were conducted by Czikszentmihalyi where he interviewed prosperous sportsmen who lost themselves in the highly demanded performances of sports (Czikszentmihalyi 1975).
The critics, on the other side, accused Maslow’s theory of being culturally biased. The critics argue that the theory is only applicable to the western individualistic society. When applied to other collectivistic cultures, certain problems arise such as different valuing of needs. An example of that is Kitayama and Markus’ study (1992) where they interviewed American and Japanese students and found out that the majority of the American students associated positive feelings with personal achievement while the Japanese students associated feelings with good relationships with others. This is an example of culture differences that makes Maslow’s theory useless in comparing cross-culturally.
Other critics meant that Maslow’s theory was not applicable for all human being and that there were people who remained outside the pyramid. One example of that are monks who devote their life to religion. The monks does not experience Love and Belongingness in form of sexual relationships, therefore according to Maslow the Monks would not be able to exceed the Love and Belongingness section of his pyramid. Yet it is evident that the monks come to reach highly spiritual experiences that make them more eligible to perceive a peak experience and therefore come closer to self-actualisation even though they have skipped some parts of the pyramid in their way.
In conclusion, there is much evidence both for and against Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, yet it is still one of the most logical and functioning theories we have and therefore it still remains strong and untouchable by the critics.