Notes on A Theory of Human Motivation (Maslow's hierarchy of needs).

28 Dec 2019

Notes based on A Theory of Human Motivation (1943) - A.H. Maslow.

Psysiological Needs

In the human who is missing everything in life in an extreme fashion, it is likely they will be motivated by physiological needs more than any other kind of need.

If all the needs are unsatisfied, then all other needs may become non-existant or pushed into the background. In this case, you could say that the person is solely motivated by food, and nothing else.

Every capacity (intelligence, memory, habits etc) become directed towards the efforts of aquiring food. Capacities that are not used for this purpose become dormant.

When a person is dominated by a specific need, then their philosophy of the future changes to reflect the meeting of that need. For someone who is starving, utopia is a place where there is plenty of food. That person may think that if they are guaranteed food for the rest of their lives, then they will be happy forever. Everything else is unimportant. That is, until that need has been met.

As soon as the person is no longer hungry and has a stable source of food, higher needs start to emerge and dominate. As each of these needs are met in turn, new and higher needs emerge and so on. The basic human needs are organised into a hierarchy of importance.

When needs are met, they no longer act as motivation for human behavior, unless they become unmet again. A want that is satisfied is no longer a want.

Maslow argues that people who have always had a specific need met are the best equipped to deal with periods where that need is unmet in the future. Whereas those who have been deprived in the past will react differently to current needs being met than people who have never been deprived of them.

Safety Needs

If the physiologal needs are met, then safety needs start to emerge. These needs then become the drivers of our behaviour, and capacities that were used to meet physiological needs but are no longer needed, become dormant. Our perception of the future also changes to match.

Pain, illness and instability are indicators of a lack of safety. Seeking some kind of a routine or predictability for the present as well as the future are examples of things a person may do to try and meet those needs.

The healthy, fortunate adult who has been raised in a safe environment, and who lives in a society that is largely free from wild animals, extremes of temperature, assault and murder, tyranny etc, will not be motivated by safety needs.

We can perceive expressions of safety needs in people who are social or economic underdogs. They may prefer a job that has tenure and protection, a desire for a savings account and insurance. They may also seek the familiar, or have some kind of religion or world philosophy that organises the universe into a coherent, meaningful whole.

Otherwise, the need for safety as an active motivator and dominant mobiliser of a person's resources are only seen in emergency situations, such as disease, natural catastrophes, crime waves, chronic illness etc.

Some people may feel psychologically unsafe, where they perceive the world to be a hostile, overwhelming and threatening environment. They behave as if something catastrophic is always impending. They may try and search for someone who appears to be stronger who they can depend on for protection and support, or rules.

People who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) frantically try to order and stabalize their world so that no unmanageable, unexpected or unfamiliar dangers will appear. If through no fault of their own something unexpected happens, they go into a panic reaction as if this unexpected occurance represented a grave danger.

Love needs

If both the physiological and safety needs are met, then love, affection and belonging needs will start to emerge. They will feel keenly the abnense of friends, a partner or children. They will seek affectionate relations with people in general and will strive with great intensity to acheive this goal.

Most theorists of psychopathology have stressed the lack of love needs being met as the underlying basis for maladjustment (sex is a physiological need, not a love need). The love needs involve both giving and receiving love.