Critically evaluate the claim that “the ordering of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is accurate”. Refer to relevant theoretical and empirical evidence to support your argument.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is one of the most important theoretical systems in humanistic psychology. However, the ordering of this system is not accurate and this is evidenced by various criticisms of Maslow’s conception of ‘self-actualisation.’ Individuals do not need to satisfy the lower needs in order to reach self-actualisation, they do not need to conform to Maslow’s idea of self-actualisation, nor do they have to reach it in order to live happy and fulfilled lives. The needs that motivate behaviour cannot be reduced in such a simplistic theoretical system. Abraham Maslow’s proposed ‘hierarchy of needs’ has far reaching implications for personality research and clinical intervention (Williams & Page 1989). Therefore, it is important that Maslow’s theoretical system be as accurate as possible, otherwise the research and clinical actions related to the system may not be as sufficient. The purpose of this paper is to assess whether the ordering of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is accurate. This will be done by a description of each ‘stage’ in the theory, from the most basic needs to the highest, a presentation of criticisms directed towards Maslow’s conception of self-actualisation, followed by an evaluation of the ordering of these ‘stages.’ First, an explanation of how Maslow’s theory works is essential. Maslow postulated that there are categories of human needs, used to motivate behavior, which are arranged in a hierarchy whereas the needs in a higher category become central to ones motivations as the needs of a lower category are increasingly gratified (Williams & Page 1989). These categorical levels from lower (basic needs) to higher (self-actualising needs) are as follows: ‘physiological needs’ are the lowest, most initial needs, these lead onto ‘safety needs’ which leads to ‘belongingness and love needs,’ followed by ‘esteem’ needs. These four categories are the most basic needs and are termed ‘deficiency needs (Sollod, Wilson & Monte 2009).’ After these needs are potentially fulfilled the ‘self-actualising needs’ begin to take a central role, these needs are related to realising personal potential and seeking personal growth through, for example, aestheticism. It is important to note that just because a higher category of needs is met it does not mean that the lower categories disappear, rather they become less important as the higher needs take a central role in ones motivation. (Sollod, Wilson & Monte 2009). The first level of the hierarchy is the category of physiological needs. This first level is related to needs such as food, sleep, sex and air. The second level consists of safety needs which relate to the need of an individual to feel comfortable in their society, to feel secure and to feel that there is order in their environment. The third level is that of belongingness and love needs and is more concerned with the need for healthy interpersonal relationships, affection and acceptance by peers. The fourth level, and final deficiency need, is that of esteem needs. This would consist of needs relating to self-esteem, a sense of achievement, and a degree of independence. Maslow suggested that the resolution of these deficiency needs was absolutely necessary for self-actualisation, which is the fifth level of the hierarchy (Sumerlin & Bundrick 1996). Self-actualisation is a more individual level which is less concerned with external aspects and rather focuses on the needs to the individual to realise their personal potential, to seek personal growth and peak experiences, to be fully what one can be (Sollod, Wilson & Monte 2009). Being the most controversial level of Maslow’s hierarchy, the concept of self-actualisation has been met with much criticism. Maslow suggests that self-actualisation is something that the individual should...
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