Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs is Not a Pyramid. So What?

Since someone came up with this “revelation” that Maslow had never suggested representing the hierarchy of needs as a pyramid, the topic has become popular. We are flooded by pop-science articles explaining why ‘the popular hierarchy of needs is incorrect and inaccurate.”

Some articles are written by academics but most of them – by laymen. One thing they all have in common: 99 percent of the authors HAVE NOT READ the original texts written by Abraham Maslow, but are just trying to ride the popular mainstream wave (like this one) but otherwise are unsubstantiated or inconsistent. Here’s why:

  1. Among established scientists in psychology and management, almost no one claims that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is incorrect and inaccurate. Some of the interpretations suggested by its “promoters” are.
  2. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is NOT “insinuating that humans are meant to achieve the highest level.” The theory says that there are certain “higher” needs that as important as food and shelter, so it is only natural for human beings to strive for them. The higher basic needs are, in Maslow’s words, instinctoid.
  3. Maslow never suggested that “lower” needs must be satisfied before any higher need develops. In fact, he mentioned that no need is ever 100% satisfied.
  4. It is not a surprise that many studies and books left out Maslow’s concept of self-transcendence: nobody has actually read even his most popular books; granted, nobody bothered finding the relevant original texts written in the last years of his life.

I could continue this list, but the above points are sufficient to show that the author’s statements like “The popular hierarchy of needs is incorrect and inaccurate“ and “a pyramid that spoke nothing about human nature” are immature at best.

The hierarchy of needs proposed by Maslow almost 80 years ago is a remarkable discovery. It has been criticized by many self-anointed management and psychology “gurus” – but never proved wrong. Created by a psychologist, it is applicable virtually in any “soft” situation, i.e. where human beings are involved.

If you want to know more about Maslow’s hierarchy, like how Maslow himself visualized his hierarchy (or perhaps get into an argument about it), follow this space – subscribe.

More about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

Maslow Revisited. Part I: Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow Revisited, Part II: Circumplex of Values

Maslow Revisited, Part III: Aligned Basic Values

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *