Critical Evaluation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

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A bunch of studies have tried to prove how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs works related to people’s needs. From some studies, it could be said that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is not perfect in the case of meeting people’s needs. There is some evidence where not all people could meet their needs from the bottom of the levels to the highest level of needs.

Well, this post will provide the critical evaluation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, as a psychological model where the needs lower down in the hierarchy should be satisfied before an individual attends to needs higher up. Let’s see a critique of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in our post below!

Critical Analysis of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

According to simplypsychology.org that talks about the critical evaluation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, this site argues that the most significant limitation of Maslow’s theory seems to concern his methodology. Through a qualitative method called ‘biographical analysis’, he also formulates the characteristics of self-actualizing individuals.

Maslow viewed the writings of 18 people and their biography that he identified as being self-actualized. Based on those sources, Maslow developed a list of qualities which seemed characteristic of the specific group of people, as opposed to humanity in general.

From the scientific perspective, there are a number of problems with this particular approach. First, it can be argued that biographical analysis as a method is totally subjective as it’s based entirely on the opinion of the researcher.

In this case, personal opinion is susceptible to bias that reduces any data’s validity obtained. Thus, Maslow’s operational definition of self-actualization should not be blindly accepted as scientific fact.

Moreover, the analysis of Maslow’s biography actually focuses on a biased sample of self-actualized individuals, conspicuously restricted to highly educated white men including Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, William James, Albert Einstein, Beethoven, Aldous Huxley.

Even though he did study self-actualized females such as Mother Teresa and Eleanor Roosevelt, they comprised a small proportion of his sample. Of course, the sample makes it hard to generalize his theory to females and individuals from lower social classes or different ethnicities, so that it questions the population validity of Maslow’s findings.

Well, it is very hard to test Maslow’s concept of self-actualization empirically in a way in which causal relationships can be built.

Another criticism actually concerns Maslow’s assumption that the lower need should be satisfied before a person can reach their potential and self-actualize. However, it’s not always the problem and therefore Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in some aspects has been falsified.

It is known that Maslow did examine cultures where the large numbers of people live in poverty. Sure, it’s very clear that people will have capability to meet higher order needs such as love and belongingness.

According to Maslow, it should not occur. He stated that people who have difficulty reaching very basic physiological needs cannot be capable of meeting higher growth needs.

In contrast, a lot of creative people such as artists and authors have lived in poverty throughout their lifetime yet, but we can say that they really achieved self-actualization.

Drawing participants from 123 countries representing every major region of the world, contemporary research by Tay and Diener has tested Maslow’s theory by analyzing the data of 60,865 participants. The survey was conducted from 2005 to 2010 and resulted, as follow:

Respondents who answered questions about 6 needs which closely resemble those in Maslow’s model including basic needs, safety needs, social needs, respect, mastery and autonomy. They rated their well-being across three discrete measure, they are:

  1. Life evaluation (a person’s view of his or her life as a whole),
  2. Positive feelings (day-to-day instances of joy or pleasure),
  3. Negative feelings (everyday experiences of sorrow, anger, or stress).

Well, the results of the study actually support the view that universal human needs seem to appear to exist regarding cultural differences. But, the ordering of the needs within the hierarchy was not correct.

We can conclude that even though the most basic needs may get the most attention as you don’t have them, Diener reveals that you do not have to meet them in order to get benefits. She then stated that we can be happy with our friends, even when we are hungry.

The Critical Analysis of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to the Education

The criticisms to Maslow’s concept have been also proven in the education field. Of the study that can be accessed here, the criticisms to this approach need consideration. After conducting an in-depth review of the Hierarchy of Needs, Wahba and Bridwell (1976) concluded that Maslow’s evidence for the hierarchical order of needs was spare.

The study proved that the existence of a rigid order of needs for every individual is questioned, whilst acknowledging that human beings do have needs to be met.

Hofstede established upon this premise, emphasizing that the hierarchy was steeped in ethnocentricity and based upon a Western ideology. He then stated that the Hierarchy of Needs alose does not count for differences in the cultural needs of societies and their unique social and intellectual needs.

Furthermore, he uses the example of collectivist and individualistic societies to describe his assertion, stating that the needs of individualistic societies reflect the self-actualization needs and self-fulfilment. Meanwhile a collectivity society is focused on the community and acceptance and belonging within this structure.

It is known that the sex’s position within the Hierarchy of Needs got criticism because it is categorize alongside food and breathing. Hofstede emphasizes that categorizing the sex in thi category actualy forms an individualistic perspective which does not acknowledge the emotional and psychological impacts caused by individuals.

In 2003, Ciance and Gambrel had criticized the Hierarchy of Needs as being too simplistic and suggested it did not account for the needs of society at certain times such as wars and recessions. Additionally, Tay and Diener (2011) also studied that the ranking of needs definitely varies with age and does not appear to be the same across all age groups.

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