The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'maslow's hierarchy of needs'
The ascent up the Maslow hierarchy of needs might have a dark side; a US psychologist claims that the ideal of self-actualisation has created a world in which romantic relationships are more likely to fail. Eli Finkel of Northwestern University posits the “suffocation” model of marriage, asserts that, as the needs we have of a partner have changed from shared survival in a hostile environment, through romantic love and onto mutual self-discovery, and the time these couples spend with one another decreases due to external time constraints, it is harder for any actual relationship with another human being (especially one who also wishes to discover themselves) to fit the bill:
"People used to marry for basic things like food and shelter. In the 1800s, you didn't have to have profound insight into your partner's core essence to tend to the chickens or build a sound physical structure against the snow," Finkel said. "Back then, the idea of marrying for love was ludicrous."
"In 2014, you are really hoping that your partner can help you on a voyage of discovery and personal growth, but your partner cannot do that unless he or she really knows who you are, and really understands your core essence. That requires much greater investment of time and psychological resources," he said.
A team of evolutionary psychologists have revised Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. The original hierarchy is a pyramid of needs, with basic ones (food, shelter and, because it was invented in the 1960s, sex) at the bottom, and subsequent layers adding more advanced ones, like love, esteem and, at the apex, self-actualisation. Douglas Kenrick's team, however, does away with all that fluffy human-potential thinking and replaces it with the brute certainties of evolutionary psychology: at the top is not self-actualisation but parenting; i.e., doing what your genes built you to do and passing them on. The levels below have to do with acquiring and retaining a genetically fit mate, and building up the necessary social status to compete for the prize.
I am generally a fan of evolutionary psychology as an explanatory tool, though this doesn't sit well with me; it strikes me as a bit too reductionistic, and a bit too basic a model. Is the ultimate goal really to breed? Can we say that someone who has settled down in anonymous suburbia with a stable if dull job and started pumping out the children is more fulfilled than one who has found self-actualisation (through social, creative or otherwise constructive pursuits) but is childless? Are those who choose the latter path deluding themselves? It seems to say so.
An interesting link from Momus: Market research firm Environics has conducted a survey of changing values in America, and come up with some disturbing conclusions. Over the past 12 years, their results show, the meta-values underlying American society have shifted away from engagement within society towards a paranoid, Hobbesian, every-man-for-himself world-view; this has fostered both libertinism and authoritarianism:
Looking at the data from 1992 to 2004, Shellenberger and Nordhaus found a country whose citizens are increasingly authoritarian while at the same time feeling evermore adrift, isolated, and nihilistic. They found a society at once more libertine and more puritanical than in the past, a society where solidarity among citizens was deteriorating, and, most worrisomely to them, a progressive clock that seemed to be unwinding backward on broad questions of social equity. Between 1992 and 2004, for example, the percentage of people who said they agree that the father of the family must be the master in his own house increased ten points, from 42 to 52 percent, in the 2,500-person Environics survey. The percentage agreeing that men are naturally superior to women increased from 30 percent to 40 percent. Meanwhile, the fraction that said they discussed local problems with people they knew plummeted from 66 percent to 39 percent. Survey respondents were also increasingly accepting of the value that violence is a normal part of life -- and that figure had doubled even before the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks.The research was done by plotting survey responses on a rectangular "values matrix", with two axes: authority-individuality and fulfilment-survival:
The quadrants represent different worldviews. On the top lies authority, an orientation that values traditional family, religiosity, emotional control, and obedience. On the bottom, the individuality orientation encompasses risk-taking, anomie-aimlessness, and the acceptance of flexible families and personal choice. On the right side of the scale are values that celebrate fulfillment, such as civic engagement, ecological concern, and empathy. On the left, theres a cluster of values representing the sense that life is a struggle for survival: acceptance of violence, a conviction that people get what they deserve in life, and civic apathy. These quadrants are not random: Shellenberger and Nordaus developed them based on an assessment of how likely it was that holders of certain values also held other values, or self-clustered.
Over the past dozen years, the arrows have started to point away from the fulfillment side of the scale, home to such values as gender parity and personal expression, to the survival quadrant, home to illiberal values such as sexism, fatalism, and a focus on every man for himself. Despite the increasing political power of the religious right, Environics found social values moving away from the authority end of the scale, with its emphasis on responsibility, duty, and tradition, to a more atomized, rage-filled outlook that values consumption, sexual permissiveness, and xenophobia. The trend was toward values in the individuality quadrant.(If I recall correctly, fulfilment and survival are at the two opposite extremes of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, with individuals whose survival needs are met progressing to focus on fulfilment needs. Could the reversion of the focus to survival be the result of respondents perceiving that their survival needs are threatened?)
On a related note: here is a PDF file of a presentation analysing British political opinions along similar lines, and finding that, while the old labels of "left" and "right" are less meaningful, opinions are divided along two axes: the Socialist-Free Market axis of economics and, more significantly, the "Axis of UKIP", which sorts respondents on their opinions on crime and international relations. At one end are the Daily Mail readers, who believe in isolationism and capital punishment, and on the other end are "chianti-swilling bleeding hearts" and cosmopolitanists. The centre of gravity is a little towards the UKIP end, which is why xenophobic, fear-mongering tabloids sell so well. The presentation also has diagrams of the distributions of positions by political affiliation and newspaper choice, with some interesting results.
The Green Party mayoral candidate in the Spanish city of Granada plans to issue youth sex vouchers to couples under 25, allowing them to rent hotel rooms at a discount, thus preserving their fundamental human right to an active and fulfilling sex life. Young couples going at it on the beach are a major problem in Spain, where young people usually live with parents until marriage and the country's conservatively Catholic culture frowns on bringing one's partner home. The usual solution until now was increased police patrols of beaches (presumably with spotlights and water cannon).
"Happiness, well-being and autonomy are very important," he explained. "It's about emotional democracy."
(It always amuses me to see an "active sex life" spoken of as a basic human need. Even the Maslow hierarchy lists sex as a basic physiological need alongside air, water and sleep, and more important than safety needs. Sure, people are sexually obsessed (for example, we have powerful computers and communications technologies, and we use them mostly for downloading porn and talking dirty to each other; well, after making ever-more-lethal killing machines, anyway), but to say that sex is as essential as oxygen is surely an exaggeration.)