Home > Cialdini - Weapons of Influence, Social Psychology > Rethinking the Core Human Needs

Rethinking the Core Human Needs

Okay, everybody…I need your help with this one.

Normally when I post an entry, it’s because I’ve reached a conclusion. This one is different. It’s unfinished. I’ve thought about this entry for a long time, and I’ve taken it a certain distance, but I need some help and feedback to finish it. In this entry, I talk about a new way of thinking about our core psychological needs. I’ve got a good start, but there are some inconsistencies I discuss at the end, and I’m not sure what to do with them yet. So, when you get to the end, please let me know your thoughts. Here we go:

There’s a good reason that Maslow’s Hierarchy has survived as long at it has: it covers every rational need you could think of. When you look at the model, it just strikes you as sensible and exhaustive. The first level of needs is Physiological, and you think, well that’s obvious. Without food, water, air, and the like, we don’t make it very long…so I can see that. What’s next? Safety needs, like health, property, security, etc. That also makes a lot of sense. When our immediate security is threatened, we feel a ton of anxiety. So that one is also easy to buy. What’s next?

English: Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Resized,...

English: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Resized, renamed, and cropped version of File:Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs.svg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next is Love and Belonging. Possible to survive without it, be we know that people have gone seriously nuts in isolation. So yeah, that makes total sense. From here on, we get a little more abstract. Fourth level is Esteem. These are qualities like self-confidence, respect, and achievement. Who among us doesn’t know someone who’s seriously off-kilter because of how they perceive their own value? What the hell: who among us hasn’t struggled at some point – even a little bit – with issues of how we perceive our own value? So that level seems to belong. The fifth level is Self-actualization, which sounds nice, but few of us really have an internal notion of what that is. It sounds like something that would really make us happy, if we ever got there.

These categories are broad, and seem to capture everything, but actually, they don’t quite. If I could pick one bone with this otherwise excellent model, it’s that it emphasizes rationality. We’ve since come to learn about man that not only is he far from rational, but that his most interesting tendencies seem on the surface completely irrational. The man with the gambling addiction, which of Maslow‘s needs is he fulfilling? How about the woman who drives a wedge between her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend? How about the friend of yours who has to top everyone’s experience story, like that Kristen Wiig character from Saturday Night Live?

Kristen Wiig as Penelope, the Attention Seeker

Kristen Wiig as Penelope, the Attention Seeker

One could argue all three of those examples into a Maslow category, but it feels like a stretch. I wanted to understand our core psychological needs and drives in a way that spoke more directly to our everyday lives. So I’ve been keeping my eyes open for a new model.

I stumbled upon a talk that performance coach Tony Robbins gave to the 2007 TED Conference (I geek out and watch those talks whenever I can). He espouses his own model of six core psychological needs. While I am not a drinker of the TR Kool-Aid, I thought his model was interesting for a couple of reasons. His six needs are 1) Certainty, 2) Uncertainty, 3) Significance, 4) Comfort and Love, 5) Growth, and 6) Contribution.

His model is interesting for a number of good reasons. First, he is the first person I’ve known to list “uncertainty” as a need. It’s irrational to need uncertainty; if we were all acting in our own rational self-interest, we would want life to be as predictable as possible so that we could reap the most advantage. We typically try to eliminate unpredictability, but Robbins acknowledges that we also crave it. He also posits that we need to contribute to causes greater than our individual selves as a prerequisite to fulfillment. One could argue this is implicit in Maslow’s self-actualization, but this model gives contribution the individual emphasis it really deserves.

Tony Robbins at the 2007 TED Conference

Tony Robbins at the 2007 TED Conference

I played with a couple other different needs models as well. I took a look at Max-Neef’s “Human Scale Development,” Cialdini’s Influence Triggers, Jonathan Haidt‘s Moral Matrix, David McClelland‘s Achievement Motive, and some other ideas from Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, and other contributors. But something keeps bringing me back to Robbins’ contribution, because I see insights in that model that I don’t really see in some of the others. True, there are examples that I can’t make fit into Robbins’ model, but I don’t think that’s as much a problem with the model as it is with its phrasing. I think that using Robbins’ model as a starting point, we can come up with a truly psychologically insightful model of rational and irrational needs.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. These are the six categories of psychological need as best I can articulate them (physiological needs are omitted). They are not mutually exclusive, meaning that one event can satisfy multiple needs at once. It’s not perfect, and I’ll go through some inconsistencies at the end. Please leave comments with your ideas for how to refine this idea.

1) The Need for Control

Robbins calls this “certainty,” but “control” is the real impulse behind certainty. When lives are orderly, they give off the illusion that we are fundamentally in control of them, and that security makes us happy. We also love to see our will enacted upon the world; that through our actions it becomes more like it “ought” to be. If you’ve ever taken a Meyers Briggs test and your letter combination ends with a strong “J,” you should relate to this idea.

There are people who live a lot of their lives in this category. Ever met anyone you’d call a “control freak”? Can you think of one right now? How about someone who gets irrationally involved in security-related news stories? Ever known someone who lost their job, and then got suddenly very orderly with their lives? Cleaned out their entire house, and so forth? I can remember lots of times I’ve tried to exert control over small and irrelevant aspects of my life, because I was stressing about bigger matters that were out of my direct control.

2) The Need for Thrill or Drama

This is the category that Robbins would have called “uncertainty” or “variety,” and those words aren’t bad. The payoff of uncertainty is thrill and drama. We need to have certain elements of life that are not within our control, so that we feel catharsis when those elements are resolved. This is why we take risks. This is how we have fun. This is why we love movies and plays and stories.

Ever met someone who was always caught up in their own drama, and their life was constantly overly complicated? I was very involved in theatre when I was growing up, so this describes basically everyone I ever met. Some people live their entire lives in a state of too much drama. Just like when we exercise control, we get a brain chemical drug-hit from the tension-and-release of uncertainty.

3) The Need for Validation of One’s Identity

I’m diverting quite a bit from Robbins here. He would call this “Significance.” Significance is important, but not broad enough. Humans have a whole array of needs having to do with our relative identity, and how that fits into the tribe. Our brains produce a certain chemical response when we receive feedback from the world that affects how we evaluate our own identity (either up or down). The smartest work I’ve seen on this topic is Leary’s Sociometer Theory.

We all have a need to play out those traits we believe differentiate us. Cialdini talks about Commitment and Consistency, the principal by which we are influenced to act congruently with how we’ve acted previously. I think that comes from a deep-seated need to act as, and be recognized as the person that we think we are. Ever felt that certain things were expected of you, without those expectations having a definite source? That sensation lives right here.

We constantly check in with this mental self-evaluation and refine it, and also become insecure about it if we don’t get the validation we need. For example, I’ve never personally used Match.com, but I’ve known people who’ve looked at the responses they get (or lack of responses) as an overly-significant measure of their own worth.

This need gives us all sorts of funny emotions and behaviors. Self-righteousness comes from here, as does self-pity. The need for attention, competition, desirability, rationalization, self-martyrdom, and a host of other fascinating traits all come from our sense of identity and validation. Psychologists and advertisers spend a lot of time here. It is the most interesting, and least understood need.

4) The Need for Empathy

If validation has to do with your perceived relationship with the pack, empathy has to do with your one-on-one and small group relationships – your “real” relationships. All people have a need to be understood, and a need for others (who we deem worthy) to invest emotional energy in us.

In good, functional relationships, this is reciprocal: you support me, and I’ll support you. As friends or siblings, we might have a rivalry going on at the same time, but that also should be reciprocal, and lighthearted enough to work on the no-harm-no-foul principal. But it’s not always reciprocal. Think of someone right now that you would describe as “draining.” Think of someone you would describe as “high maintenance.” Some people, especially those who were at one point deprived of empathy, form dysfunctional relationships and drain all the emotional energy out of the room.

As I read more about the concept of emotional energy, I’m starting to believe more and more that it is a real and finite resource. We have a certain amount of emotional fuel to get through each day, and when we allow certain influences to drain us disproportionally, we quite literally have less ability to produce and achieve.

5) The Need for Advancement and Mastery

Robbins refers to this as “Growth,” and I’m just flushing it out a bit. When we talk about achievement and mastery in this context, we’re talking about the motive to do these things for their own sake, rather than for validation. The great tech success stories of our day – Gates, Jobs and Wozniak, Brin and Page, all started working on projects because they were fascinated by the subject itself and wanted to build it up for intellectual and creative fulfillment.

A few posts back, I talked about Daniel Pink, and his discoveries on workplace motivation. He discovered that people produced at their creative peak in part when they were mastering that which was intriguing to them. They were fulfilling a deep-seated need to grow and to expand their personal sphere of influence.

This category also includes character growth, for the sake of self-mastery. People can feel the urge to pursue virtue for personal rather than social reasons. The need to cultivate traits like integrity, responsibility, purity and so forth are usually questions of identity, but they also can be questions of personal growth.

6) The Need to Contribute to a Cause Greater Than Ourselves

This is Robbins’ signature contribution to the discussion. Maslow’s idea of self-actualization might almost be used interchangeably with our idea of Advancement and Mastery. But this idea goes beyond Maslow significantly. I’ve never known any model to suggest that we have an innate need to give to the greater good. It’s not like our need to control or to experience thrill, where we’re certain of the need because we feel it viscerally.

I would argue that when we meet any of the first four needs in this discussion, we experience some form of instant gratification. Our brains send us instant, pleasing signals that will ensure that we continue doing whatever we’re doing. But with the fifth and sixth needs, it would seem that the gratification is often less instant. That means that if these needs aren’t getting met, we may feel a long-term, unrecognizable, indeterminate feeling of dissatisfaction without really knowing the cause.

Now, as I mentioned before, this model is incomplete. I like where it is going, but there are some lingering inconsistencies that I need some help to place. I’d like to specifically invite your thoughts, and I appreciate your comments, and your spread of the discussion.

There are a couple of tendencies that I believe reflect core needs, but that don’t fit well into this framework. Maybe they deserve another bullet point, or maybe they’re already represented I just need to rephrase the category for a better fit.

Bad Fit #1: Reciprocity

After looking at Cialdini and Jonathan Haidt, it seems that people have a deep need to promote the rules of reciprocity. Not only will they tend to treat people as they’ve been treated, but they want to make sure other people are playing by the same rules and no one’s getting a free pass. We can also call this fairness, and Haidt shows us through his research that fairness is valued cross-culturally.

This goes well with neither empathy nor validation. It affects both types or relationships: one-on-one and self-to-tribe. It doesn’t speak to the concept of identity, and it doesn’t really speak to empathy or emotional energy. There are elements of control in it, but “control” does not encapsulate it. It might end up as its own bullet, or I might have to rephrase “empathy” and make it broader than I really want to.

Bad Fit #2: The Pursuit of Value

I went back to Cialdini’s “Scarcity” principal and discovered that it doesn’t fit the paradigm particularly well. The “Scarcity” principal says that people will tend to value, and consequently demand, that which is in short or decreasing supply. But even if we are right to ascribe value to something simply because it is scarce, why chase it? Why not just say, oh I’m sure those Superbowl tickets are valuable, but I don’t need them…

What need are those tickets fulfilling? Thrill, maybe, but most of that is about actually seeing the Superbowl. What if it was a beach house? Maybe that one’s about identity. And also thrill. What if it was toilet paper? Many readers might not have been alive for this, but Johnny Carson once announced a toilet paper shortage as a joke, and it led to an actual shortage. That one was probably about control.

People tend to chase things not only for the need that the object satisfies, but also (and perhaps more so) for the incremental value we place on those things for circumstantial reasons like scarcity or social proof. That may have to do with identity and it may have to do with control, but there’s something more to it. Something that exists for its own sake.

That’s where I’m at right now. I have some tweaking to do, and there might be more inconsistencies that I haven’t thought of yet. Please let me know your thoughts, and help spread the discussion using the links below.

[Editor’s note, 2/1/2011: I’m honored to learn that this has become the second People-triggers blog post to earn a spot on the “Freshly Pressed” front page section of WordPress.com. Thank you to WordPress, and to everybody stopping by to read. I appreciate your visit very much!]

  1. February 1, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    I’m SO glad you’ve posted this … I was just having a convo the other day with my boyfriend about Maslow’s hierarchy, and now it’s right here!

    Thank you kindly. :)

  2. February 1, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    I loved this post in terms of how you got us to think outside the box. Can I be honest? I think our greatest need is to be in relationship with the One that supplies all of those other needs that we have in our life. My relationship with Jesus as my creator and friend allows me to experience and enjoy security, thrill and excitement, identity, empathy, advancement of my gifts and abilities, and the ability to be a part of something bigger than myself. I totally agree with the needs that you laid out. And I have found and daily experience the source and provider of the answers to those needs. It’s everything I write about it my blog…would love to chat on this more if you’re game!

    • February 2, 2011 at 7:48 AM

      I agree with Jana.

    • February 3, 2011 at 12:19 AM

      I am still trying to find the answer to life.

      See what I think and please reply


      • February 6, 2011 at 1:54 PM

        Yes, deep down our greatest, built-in need is for union with our Creator. Everything else that we need is but a reflection of that greater need…which cannot be fulfilled in this life.

        Indeed, these deep needs are so profound that we can never get enough of them. We have an infinite desire for love, beauty, knowledge, and justice.

        This is very important to remember in dealing with the frustrations of life…especially the frustrations of relationships.

        It is too easy to imagine that a spouse, for example, is supposed to fulfill our need to be perfectly loved and validated. But that is impossible for any person to do. In even desiring this we are expressing the desire for the infinite satisfaction of deeply rooted needs that can only be satisfied by an infinite being, God.

        Therefore, what causes so much unhappiness in life is trying to find happiness in finite things (which we can often become addicted to) that only partially satisfy our core, infinite needs, and therefore lead to a deep rooted frustration and unhappiness . . . often an unhappiness we blame on others and circumstance rather than our own blindness in seeking happiness in things rather than contentment in the faith and hope of being with God once we have completed our God-given task of seeking to know, love and share Him with others in this life.

  3. February 1, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    Interesting post, it really got me thinking.

    I think that the fundamental problem here is that we are trying to fit the whole of human existence/experience, into a neat little chart. Things don’t exactly work that way.

    I will only deal with the third tier up, as the bottom two seem obvious and are thus irrelevant to this discussion. The top three all deal with one thing: motivation. What motivates a person to drive a wedge into a relationship that they have no interest in any longer (purportedly), what makes someone a story topper, what makes a gambler seek the thrill of the win?
    If we look at the chart, all of these examples fit neatly into the third tier, but i beleive that it goes beyond that.
    Psychology, and biology (particularly epigenetics), take center stage when it comes to creating an individual. Your ancestors, their diet, and where they’d lived all shape who you are, and more importantly, what drugs your brain deals in. That organ between your ears (which i seldom use), is a veritable pharmacist, and the drugs that it gives you will change your psyche. The way you are raised will either aid in the promotion of those drugs and their effects, or shun them. it is for this reason that i’ve always believed an old axiom that I’d once heard, and this axiom sums up the top three tiers, and why they are so vital, and in the correct order;
    “Regular people concern themselves with people, intelligent people concern themselves with things, and brilliant people concern themselves in ideas.”

    Maslow’s Hierarchy was a success (and still is), because he only attempted to define the 1% of the worlds upper crust, e.g. Einstein, Tesla, Jefferson, etc… By this reasoning: The gambler, the ex-girlfriend, and the Sat Night Live character character all deal in esteem, the solicitation/gateway to the upper tiers. The psyche is unconsciously striving to reach creativity, but we are taught wrong, the gateway to creativity is not through other people, or the things that we own, but rather by how we view ourselves.

    I don’t know if this helps the discussion, I’m just a guy, but i honestly enjoyed thinking with you.
    And i LOVE TED talks.

  4. February 1, 2011 at 10:47 AM

    i loved the post..ted talks are amazing!!

  5. February 1, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    i am new to wordpress have a look my blog The Leaves Fall

  6. lynnblossom
    February 1, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    Have you looked at Spiral Dynamics? It has a different take on human evolution but seems to fit with Maslow Hierarchy. The website has loads of information and may help flesh out what you are looking for.

    Nice to meet a fellow seeker.

  7. Josh Tilley
    February 1, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    I am intrigued by this post, and although I am not a professional in any of the fields you mentioned, I know the following to possibly give some insight to your first question regarding the gambers addiction. Now I am not a gambler, but I am a recovering alcoholic. I know that all addictions, gambling, alcohol, sex, drugs, work you name it is an individuals escape from the emotional pain that he or she has created. Note, I am not blaming any one for anything other than their own choices in life. Blame is a way to escape ones responsibility. If for instance, I can blame others for my poor decisions and or choices, I therefore feel better, escaping responsibility, however harbouring resentments is total poison.

    Now, I do not believe you need another model to study, for you have proven your commitment to in depth reasearch. I would suggest you read the following book if you have not already, “The Slight Edge” written by Jeff Olson, published by Success Books, 2005. It is a short read only 168 pages, and believe that the information you seek may be in there.

    As for control, I do not believe we control our lives. I believe we DO control our responses and reactions to external stimulus. We also contol our thoughts, and beliefs, (not easily to change) which in turn influence our smallest day to day choices and decisions.

    I may have been totaly off base for which you seek, yet hopefuly you find this useful in some manner.

  8. February 1, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    I think #6 is quite interesting and kind of ties into #3 and #4 in a way.

    Contributing to the greater good reflects how you feel about yourself and how you feel about others. I always thought that what you hate in others, you hate in yourself and vice versa, so #6 feels like a mirror of how you view yourself as a human, and therefore how you view humankind. If you love/accept/appreciate yourself, the more you will do the same for others and then the more you want to help unknown 3rd parties.

    I just think right there is something interesting, the need to compare yourself versus others to find out who you are. Actually, not really a need, humans compare regardless to figure out who we are.

    Also #1, the need for control, there are a lot of people who are reckless and don’t need that much control (the ones that never look up directions and decide to wander aimlessly through city streets…) maybe those people seek control in other ways? Or let go of a controlling attitude and let fate handle itself?

    Very interesting topics and I think each category could be further analyzed and I think it will lead to more revelations.

  9. February 1, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    You might take a look at a book called “Status Anxiety” by Alain du Botton. He argues that the new ability (and human inclination) to compare ourselves to others across the globe makes us unhappy, because it gets in the way of some core human needs (including your #3 above). As a means for solving it he suggests a few techniques (including your #6 above).

    Great post – the Freshly Pressed visibility is well-deserved!

  10. Katie
    February 1, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    This post was fascinating. I like the derivation of your final tier to include Contribution to Something Greater Than Ourselves. There always seemed to be something in ‘Self-Actualization’ that I never fully understood, granted the vast majority of people would never get there, but even if I had I don’t think I would know I was there. The final tier stands out to me as fitting with Erik Erikson’s personality theory as well; his final stage being Ego Integrity vs. Despair – once we hit old age nearing death, we begin to look back on our lives and what we have done with it and what legacy we will leave behind. From this point on you can either reach bitterness and despair or find satisfaction. All in all, it seems to me that this need for final satisfaction fits right in with your final tier.
    The hardest aspect for me is figuring out where any act of Jealousy fits into our needs.
    I’d be interested to see what else you come up with

    Congratulations on your second Freshly-Pressed spot. :)

  11. February 1, 2011 at 11:36 AM

    Without a doubt, this posting, this blog is one of most enlighting ones I have read to date. As a senior senior, my life’s greatest regret is not having a college education. As to adding a possible missing link, all I can offer is the following: “Without a belief in the eternal beyond this brief life, are we living a life without any real purpose in the universe.”

  12. Dr. Asoka Dissanayake
    February 1, 2011 at 11:39 AM

    In psychology there are lot of weird ideas and concepts that are not tested in real life.
    One needs to get out of the “inside box thinking” to out of the box thinking.
    Prof De Bono gives a new terminology for this called Lateral Thinking.
    What you need to do is to drop all those boxes (models) that have made you thoroughly confused and retarded your own creative thinking.
    You are blessed with creative thinking and that is your asset.
    Do not let other people’s ideas hinder your creativity but be yourself and you will discover what others have failed. For a starter read my writing on 50 ways to leave your psychologist at asokaplus

    • Dr. Asoka Dissanayake
      February 16, 2011 at 2:50 AM

      Dr. Asoka Dissanayake :
      In psychology there are lot of weird ideas and concepts that are not tested in real life.
      One needs to get out of the “inside the box thinking” to out of the box thinking.
      Prof De Bono gives a new terminology for this called Lateral Thinking.
      What you need to do is to drop all those boxes (models) that have made you thoroughly confused and retarded your own creative thinking.
      You are blessed with creative thinking and that is your asset.
      Do not let other people’s ideas hinder your creativity but be yourself and you will discover what others have failed. For a starter read my writing on 50 ways to leave your psychologist at asokaplus

  13. jimgilmore2010
    February 1, 2011 at 11:46 AM

    Very interesting article. Thoughtful.

    Regarding Reciprocity: I think Reciprocity fits into need #1, Control. We don’t have control if we are playing the game by the rules and others are not. The rules become irrelevant or worse, they become a hindrance and then we need to be break them in order to “get ahead” or survive in society.

    Regarding #6 the need to contribute to a greater cause: I think it’s larger: We have a need to believe we are an integral part of something much larger than our selves. I believe that is because we have a need to realize our true nature. Contemporary Astrophysics: We are literally made of the material of stars, from the same source as everything else in the universe (Big Bang), and thus connected to it (Quantum Theory, Entanglement…). Our socialization process, and ironically religion, often steer us away from that realization.



  14. February 1, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    I think that Reciprocity is part of Contributing to a Cause; fairness is a good and meaningful cause. I agree that the Value relates to both Identity and Drama/Thrill, and possibly Control. There can be some overlap in our needs. I don’t think that the Value point needs to stand on its own –I think there are multiple reasons for it, as you point out, so it is not truly an independent need, but a result of a combination of some other needs. Think of a Venn Diagram. No need to include the overlap section separately. It could be part of a deeper discussion of the original Needs.

  15. February 1, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    I have honestly never heard of Maslow’s hierarchy before- but your list makes more sense to me!

  16. February 1, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    Interesting post…I think the answer to many of your questions may be found in the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology–developed by psychiatrist/researcher/teacher, Daniel Siegel (His books–The Developing Mind, The Mindful Brain, Mindsight). Many of our needs are based in evolution and neurobiology AND in Attachment Theory, the theory which explains so much about our earliest relationships and how they literally shape the brain and our future relationships.
    Also, as Josh spoke of in reference to addictions–sometimes we’re not meeting a basic need, e.g. being validated for our feelings/experience. We are instead compensating for that need NOT being met. There is this little thing that psychology has talked about for decades–defenses. Sometimes our actions are motivated by defenses against a painful experience, right? Those with addictions are often avoiding an experience that they deem more painful than the problems the addiction may cause them.
    Anyway, these are big and important questions. Thanks for being the spark to an interesting conversation!–Catie

  17. February 1, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    I find your list very intriguing, especially when you include Robbins’ “uncertainty” category. Perhaps that is why there are entrprenuers and people who enjoy taking great physical risks. It might explain why horror movies can be so popular at times. Great post and congrats on being freshly pressed.

  18. Modern Funk
    February 1, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    Excellent post…and a great ‘refresher’ mini-course. Thanks for sharing!

  19. February 1, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    I agree with Jana that our most important relationship is with God…and I like the theory of other designs, but so far as Maslow’s, I think self realization should come before loving others – it goes with that whole ‘love yourself in order to love others’ concept. Life is nothing but a series of lessons on love. And love has a variety of levels, both with others and with ourselves. Thanks for the post :)


  20. February 1, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    Hi! This is so interesting. Currently I’m studying psychology, and now we’re dealing with motivation. Maslow’s theory is a kind o “motivational theory” according to some books – motivation = what makes us do some things, but not others. Our goal oriented behaviour.
    I think have thought about this a lot ha ha! sounds funny! And I love your ideas. So cool. This post is great!
    I think you wrote you wanted comments and ideas..mine might be a bit different, and much shorter LOL! I think what motivates us, what our need is, is love, love, love. To be seen and respected. Because if we don’t feel loved or respected nothing else matters – even though people see this from differen angles. If you have seen Avatar – in one scene the girl (can’t rember her name) says: I see you. I think that’s a good example, and I also think that is what we need. To be seen for who we are, because then we can grow. This also means we are influenced by things around us, not only as maslow saw it – that we have needs that just are. They are needs because they are needs, and we need those things because we need them. We have the world around us.
    It’ll be interesting to read the other comments :)

  21. February 1, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    Very, very interesting and quite a nice and heady topic! While reading your choice of needs, here’s what I thought:

    1-Control – isn’t that a symptom of the need for certainty?
    2-Thrill/Drama – if we do indeed need uncertainty, thrill or drama, asking what is a typical outcome of this need might shed more light on defining the need best. Innate in all of us is a push for growth – without uncertainty, we might not be coaxed to grow at all in any fashion.
    3-Validation of One’s Identity – I think “Significance” is a broader term as it can apply to the significance of the universe, relationships, belief systems, and this in turn valuates my identity.

    Great post! Congrats!

  22. February 1, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    I think the greatest difference between how Maslow speaks and what you speak of is that Maslow’s hierarchy cannot be manipulated to be unhealthy because it is so rational whereas the steps that Ted and yourself have laid out are great, but very unhealthy people can follow them and still be very unhealthy. A person who is avoidant of their issues can go through all six steps and still remain extremely avoidant without improving their life whereas someone capitalizing on Maslow’s issues within themselves significantly improves on their life which is Maslow’s purpose. So a key element that I would add to your six steps is that in order for it to work, first things first, it has to come from within. You cannot project it or look to receive it from someone else. You have to be able to find significance and empathy from within first.

  23. nikugiri
    February 1, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    This was an excellent read and you bring up points i have never thought about before. The only critisism i have is that the Maslows Hierarchy you looked at was the 1990’s adaptation.

    1970s adapted hierarchy of needs was in the following order:

    1. Biological and Physiological needs
    2. Safety needs
    3. Belongingness and Love needs
    4. Esteem needs
    5. Cognitive needs
    6. Aesthetic needs (appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.)
    7. Self-Actualization

    In the 1943 paper of Thoery and MOtivation by Maslow, he places further importance on spiritality and autonomy.

    Apart from that i think you are on the right track. I personally believe that all humans are value driven and these values shape the needs of the core needs.

    Look forward to the next post :)


  24. February 1, 2011 at 2:33 PM

    Really interesting. You have obviously put a lot of effort into this post!
    I think another approach to this might also be at-least partially lateral dynamics.
    Once you’ve got your basics covered (Which looks like 1 and 2), 3, 4 and 5 could all be worked on/contributed to as a lateral, instead of vertical fashion.

    You can volunteer (give to the greater good) while discovering your self-worth, for example.

    Personal Growth is such a big part of growing up/maturity. Learning to explore your talents and skills is something that we’re trained to do some a very early age, and what we in turn train our children to do. We give them, or try to, every opportunity to show their value and we reward it. But when you enter the school system, you’re whitewashed and expected to keep up, which can lead to that low self-worth which you then have to salvage and rebuild as an adolescent or adult.

    I dont’t think you need to work on these steps, in any model, in a vertical manner. It might make the upper levels easier, or lead to a more fulfilling contribution/completion of step if you did, but you can also work towards or contribute in part to the goals of the upper levels while still trying to attain a cedrtain skill or value in the lower section.

    Perhaps that isn’t the most eloquent way to phrase it, but I hope my meaning has gotten across.

  25. Sarah Glover
    February 1, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    I loved this!

    I agree that Reciprocity fits Control, for reasons Jim said above (if people don’t play by the rules, control is threatened). Driving a wedge between and ex and their new partner is also a way to feel in control as well as experience thrill and drama.

    I thought that the scarcity thing might be about Control too (especially if it’s about toilet paper!), but it also made me think about Uniqueness. I heard somewhere everyone needs to feel BOTH that they belong and that they are unique. Trying to get things of higher value might contribute to the uniqueness need – “look at me”. Then I looked back to see where uniqueness might fit in your 6, and noticed that the Validation of Identity need contains competitiveness, and that is what I see the seeking of Value as. We’re competing with others for higher status, either for uniqueness or for a sense of belonging to a different “better” tribe.

    What if you split Validation of Identity into two “boxes”?? belonging and uniqueness…

  26. February 1, 2011 at 3:23 PM

    For me the uncertainty makes life exciting. A great post and model you are putting across. Very relevant to present time unlike Maslow’s model.

  27. barbaralongley
    February 1, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    While working on my graduate degree, I had a professor state that all we really need is warmth, shelter, food, water and sex. Everything stems from these needs, no matter how we dress them up or complicate them. Makes things rather simple doesn’t it? Warmth/shelter, food/water and sex. Present any situation you want, and you can trace back to one of these human needs. Try it.

    That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

  28. February 1, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    I haven’t read all the comments, but I would like to point you to look at Marshal Rosenberg’s Non-violent communication. https://www.cnvc.org/ In what he teaches he says that ALL our actions that we take in our life have to do with meeting our needs. basically since being born all we do, is want to satisfy our needs. what is more interesting is that we ALL have the same needs – universally – its just that our strategies at meeting them are different.
    In this context, your man with the gambling addiction, the woman who drives a wedge between her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend, and the friend of yours who has to top everyone’s experience story all are doing these things to meet their needs.

  29. February 1, 2011 at 3:36 PM

    In Burt Hotchkiss’s ‘Owner’s manual’ he discusses the idea that all people are seeking meaning for their life. It would certainly explain the progression through any hierarchy of needs. When meaning is missing we engage in denial and distraction activities – drink, drugs, gambling etc. Ultimately people are either seeking or avoiding the answer to “what happens after death” and/or “why am I here?”.

    This often leads to religion or philosophy – or self actualisation activities. In the former the avid following of religion diminishes with ‘certainty’ of belief or continues with ‘uncertainty’ of beliefs.

    And this leads nicely to ‘beliefs’. We all choose what we believe – god (of any flavour), good/bad, right/wrong, justice/injustice. These beliefs relate to values that we have adopted, knowingly or unknowingly (religion / culture / environment / geography / Television / Film / Books / News) – are just some of the powerful influences on our values and beliefs.

    Thus, for me, values and beliefs provide the answers to motivation (and how strong that motivation is). A suicide bomber or saint are equally convinced that their way is the best, right and noble.

    Vrooms theory simplified as VxE=M (Value x Expectancy = M) comes in to play to. The value of food to the starving x expectancy of eating (value of survival x belief that food can or cannot be obtained) = very strong motivation to do/not do anything. Value is whatever the believer chooses e.g. money, fame, sporting prowess etc., political power, career achievement. Expectancy is the belief element – you believe where/what you are now and you believe where/what you can get to or become.

    Hence the value of coaching to unlocking self limiting beliefs that block the way to achieving goals/dreams/aspirations.

  30. February 1, 2011 at 4:23 PM

    I have a problem with number 6.
    I know happy people with no desire to participate in a community outside of their immediate reciprocal relationships. The cost / benefit of contributing to the community outside of paying taxes does not strikes a good balance for them.
    I would consider that I am a contributor to the greater good in that I do charity work in the community, buy local, use good manners, don’t litter, recycle etc but it is not an innate need so much as a selfish action. I choose to build the kind of society that will provide me with the second level of Maslow’s hierarchy (security, health, employment) and to an extent the fourth level as it adds to my self-esteem when someone admires the good work I do, they respect me when I respect them. Reciprocity.
    The school of argument that there is no truly unselfish action tinkers with nature of the greater good contributions.

  31. February 1, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    Excellent read. I believe your answers can be found in Benjamin Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues.

  32. February 1, 2011 at 5:10 PM

    It’s an interesting post. Thanks for this point of view…

  33. gschirr
    February 1, 2011 at 5:20 PM

    A major problem with Maslow’s hierarchy is that it has been tested repeatedly and not supported. Neat theory trumping evidence. I like to call it “zombie theory” – it can’t be killed no matter how often it is tested and found wanting…

  34. Jaan Pehchaan
    February 1, 2011 at 5:30 PM

    Rethinking Core Human Needs – Maslow’s stack seems most logical, but watching the three part documentary – “This Emotional Life” on PBS, I am not sure about Love and Belonging being higher than the physiological level on Maslow’s stack. Experiments conducted with Monkeys (please read or watch the section on “The Experience of Touch and the Development of Self), shows that starved infant monkeys chose comfort (Love and Belonging) over even food and water, if the choice was clear cut.

  35. February 1, 2011 at 5:51 PM

    Hmm. Fascinating. I intend to return here and put a real comment and some thoughts down. However what you wrote will take some time to mentally digest and cogitate for a bit as it’s so rich my mind can’t swallow it all in one reading. Delicious mind food nonetheless but it’s like trying to eat a whole triple dark chocolate torte in one bite.

  36. February 1, 2011 at 5:57 PM

    Good article. Being a psychiatrist, it naturally grabbed my interest and the kind of issues you’ve raised are ones I’ve also thought about and blogged about a bit too.

    I generally prefer to think of Maslow as the model it is rather than the prescription for life that it is often misconstrued as. That is to say, Maslow worked BACKWARDS from people he (and, to be fair, most of world) respected to derive his hierarchy. That alone gives it an uncertain basis to be used as a universal truth. In fact, it explains neatly why you find it difficult to square the hierarchy with emotionality; the people Maslow focused on were by their very nature highly rational and poised (at least on the surface). It’s still a great model, with a lot of utility, but it never attempted to describe everyone’s ideal life journey, only that of those Maslow felt were worth emulating.

    Jung offers a somewhat different model to satisfying needs, which I find has more universal applicability (at the cost of increasing fragmentation/complexity). His approach to understanding Psychological Types as a first step to interpreting the psyche allows for more variability in what happiness means to different people.

    Good post. Well done on a worthy Freshly Pressed.

  37. February 1, 2011 at 6:09 PM

    Very interesting and I would agree with your list of “needs.” Have you checked out Seligman and the concept of Authentic Happiness. This might give you some additional ideas:


  38. February 1, 2011 at 6:18 PM

    Hey there!

    It’s a great post, though I’m inclined to think that Robbin’s ideas ((in particular the need for certainty and uncertainty and the need for significance/ contribution (kinda the same thing isn’t it?)) aren’t new ideas.

    Peter Marris in his classic Loss and Change wrote about this in 1969 in which he writes about how humans have an inherent conservative impulse (the need to defend the predictability of life – certainty) vs innovation (the need to explore new, uncharted territory). Bowlby’s ideas of attachment also have similar tones.

    As for the idea of significance and contribution, I’m sure you have read this already. The great existential psychotherapist Viktor Frankl has written a great treatise on this in his classic Man’s Search for Meaning.

    I’m inclined to think that Robbin’s ideas aren’t exactly new, but perhaps integrated and re-packaged to be sold to an audience who don’t read the classics anymore. :p

    Liren, Singapore

  39. Marie
    February 1, 2011 at 6:19 PM

    Great post! I enjoyed reading it and it made a lot of sense to me.

  40. February 1, 2011 at 6:26 PM

    Hmmm Every time I figure out what I need, it changes… Where does that fit in?

  41. February 1, 2011 at 6:58 PM

    At the end of the day, are all these models really not speaking of the same needs- but in different words???
    Often, when you examine human behaviour, the real needs are not immediately obvious – even to the subject themselves. There are many layers of apparent motives which have to be peeled back, and when the real motive becomes apparent, the subject is often more surprised than anybody else – and the behavious changes radically!

  42. February 1, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    Great insights. Sometimes I wonder if the hierachy of needs is different for every peron. Some like risk taking more than others, some are more comfortable doing the same thing every day while others need difference and challenge, some willfully become hermits while others let their work suffer to satisfy social desires. I’d never thought about uncertainty being a need, but knowing what will happen for the rest of your life would be boring. It’s even boring for only a week or so in advance.

  43. February 1, 2011 at 7:20 PM

    Oh I love Ted Talks, and excellent thoughts, but Ive read a lot about Human Needs lately and why do I never read or hear about fundamental rights or freedoms being a psychological need? My fiance and I have an ongoing debate about humanity and its needs…he says that if a human was never shown freedoms, that that human would never long for freedom. I’m disinclined to agree with him, though humans may be able to “live” without a sense of freedom, I believe that human would instinctively want and search for freedom. Maybe its just me…oh well, great job!

  44. AJ
    February 1, 2011 at 7:36 PM

    You could sum up all the non physiological needs with a single word – ‘aspiration’ and cut out all the gobbdygook, life is complicated enough!

  45. February 1, 2011 at 7:50 PM

    Why does there even need to be a model that describes human needs so perfectly? Maslow does a great job, but there will be ways to describe it’s imperfections and that could be said about any model. Psychology as a science is not the same as something as pure as mathematics for example, where there are absolute truths. I think about the “truths of psychology” in a systems thinking kind of way. There are so many complicating factors that impact on one another. I think it’s easier to be satisfied with an imperfect “best-fit” model and accept that we may never really understand ourselves as much as we’d like to.

  46. Mèo Lười Việt
    February 1, 2011 at 8:47 PM

    People tend to chase things not only for the need that the object satisfies, but also (and perhaps more so) for the incremental value we place on those things for circumstantial reasons like scarcity or social proof.

    That’s right! :)

  47. February 1, 2011 at 9:11 PM

    The psychiatrist in one of the previous comments touched on my contribution to this discussion. I’m extremely interested in how all people’s basic emotionality seems to be absent from models such as these. Bad Fit #1 Reciprocity, fits into empathy if you understand that reciprocity includes emotional reciprocity. Emotional empathy cannot be perceived without emotional validation. In your model, “You support me, I’ll support you” does not prove empathy. It proves the need for something, along with the willingness to exchange something for it. This can be all right between those who are all coming from the same place of need, i.e. amicable business relationships or family relationships that aren’t based on passionate, deeply felt love; but this is not true emotional empathy. This is not deep understanding of another person’s feelings.

    True empathy implies a real understanding and respect of another person’s feelings, needs and motivations. Empathy, to incorporate your points, is two pronged. What’s missing from your model is a fundamental understanding of emotional reciprocity.

    One point that bothers me about the motivations for much of the research into core human needs (and I don’t know what yours are — I’m speaking broadly here) is that these concepts have been hijacked by marketing and media purely for the purposes of manipulating and selling to the public. Many people (especially young people) don’t recognize true empathy for what it is anymore, and react to it badly, because they have been conditioned to experience it as an odd shadow quality that feels insincere and sometimes sinister. I think much of this is the residual effects of a steady diet too rich in marketing, and with too little emphasis on the commonalities between the personal emotional needs of human beings. In effect, even the sincerely caring overture often feels like a “come-on” to some, yet the ads for the new video game, make up, or ‘must-have’ item of clothing is allowed into the psyche as perfectly valid, without a second thought.

    Thanks for asking a question that gives me a chance to speak to something very close to my heart. I hope I’ve made some points that help in your research.

  48. February 1, 2011 at 10:20 PM

    Desire, Ask, Believe, Receive
    Difficult have helped me to undrstand better than before how in infinitely how rich and beautiful life is in every way and that so many things that one goes worrying are of no importance

  49. February 1, 2011 at 11:04 PM

    If you haven’t yet, I would suggest reading “The Pursuit of Meaning” written by Joseph B. Fabry. He goes in depth with Viktor Frankl’s idea of Logotheraphy. Something you may be interested in looking into.

  50. February 1, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    These new needs seem creepily accurate. We are both horrible and wondrous things.

  51. melancholiastudioinc
    February 1, 2011 at 11:32 PM

    Are you serious? There’s enough blather here to make a saint’s eyes glaze over, you’re not a shrink and you shouldn’t play on on the internet. You’re a used car salesman, sometime actor, Oh, I’m sorry, SOFTWARE salesman. The last person who brought up Maslow to me was a genuine psychopath. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out you need a place to live, food to eat, and god willing, the world isn’t so full of d*ck heads you can’t find someone who is GENUINELY SINCERE. Oh, and what exactly do you need my help with? Good cone on — I NEED you, but seriously, that was just the pitch to get the the not to bright reader to actually read this stuff. I read enough to know it was a bs question, there was no question, you just want people to follow your links to pander to your paying advertisers. The internet is the new self-help sham. May god forgive you.

    • February 2, 2011 at 6:24 PM

      I don’t understand your vitriol. I think this article was quite well written, and frankly I value any real discussion about what makes us each do and feel the things we do. These are the sorts of connections we should be trying to make with each other in order to bring about our peaceful coexistence. The fact that we were asked our opinion about something that takes some pondering, is a testament to openness. Participate in the discussion, and you can state your points — attempt to stamp out the discussion, and you show your own willingness to behave like a psychopath.

  52. sirhcle
    February 1, 2011 at 11:50 PM

    Definitely find the need for thrill and drama or Robbins ‘uncertainty’ intriguing.

    I’ve got a mate who works in the neighbouring state, and he travels to and from every fortnight to spend the weekend here. He works as an engineer overseeing the productivity of several warehouses across the country. As a strong ESTJ, he lives and breathes logic, efficiency and order. The perfect job for an overseer.

    Recently he got a job transfer request from a former boss, who wants him to relocate back home to work as a consultant, offering a respectable job title, superior pay and the like. Yet he told me that he is not particularly comfortable with moving back home.

    As an SJ myself, I questioned if it was a fear of change, whether he was growing too comfortable or complacent in his old job, and to that he replied that he loved the spontaneity of taking upon different projects and working with a variety of people, travelling and visiting new warehouses and raved on about independence and never knowing where he’ll stop by for dinner.

    • February 2, 2011 at 11:13 AM

      Uncertainty drives life. It makes it a mystery. You never know. How exciting that is.

  53. February 2, 2011 at 12:01 AM

    The need for control really resonated with me. So many people experienced a loss of control during the recession. Many lost the validation they received from their employer. Many felt an absence of empathy and understanding among others for their plight. They lost the sense that they were contributing to a cause that was greater than themselves. They tumbled to the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid and had to worry about basics they’d come to take for granted–like food and shelter.

    When you think about it, the human race has lived at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid for most of its existence. It’s winter here in Western Washington, and sometimes I think about the sheer effort that it took to stay warm in winter a century or two ago. Or the effort that it took to feed a family in the days before Safeway. Makes self actualization look like a pretty new-fangled idea.

  54. Zen
    February 2, 2011 at 12:27 AM

    A really interesting post, got me thinking, and forwarding the link to multiple friends.
    Am going to follow this blog regularly from now on.

  55. February 2, 2011 at 12:44 AM

    Loved the post. As I attempted to put in a context of understanding it seems that Maslov’s model may not be the best starting point, as each of the needs in that model are an individual’s needs and as they move up it goes from personal needs to more social ones where at the apex it’s for the benefit of all humanity.
    In the emotional space there seems to be two different classes, one set for internal emotional satisfactions that require little external validation and a second set that are conditional on the relationship to others or the tribe.

    In this two laddered model there are logical connections between the two realms of emotional needs, the social (or interpersonal) and the private (intrapersonal) but they do serve different functions. The hierarchical order that works in Maslov’s model may not make sense in the emotional needs model as I could not conceptualize any of them as being more important than any of the others and it may be that they are circumstantially and environmentally motivated and their importance varies with those circumstances rather than some progression.

    I agree with most of your categories but have added a few that I believe are not included in any of them. And offer alternative terms that may be more inclusive in other cases. They are presented with your term first with my alternative following an = sign.


    THRILLS=EXCITEMENT. This includes uncertainty although uncertainty seems to be what creates risk and thrills not the emotional need itself. I chose Excitement as it seems a bit more inclusive than mere thrills.

    DISCOVERY includes some thrills and uncertainty but it seems that experiential novelty or newness is in itself an emotional need that goes to basic curiosity and our need to acquire mastery and control over the world without the necessary condition of getting an emotional rush of excitement from it, even though that’s a by product of the process.

    CAUSE GREATER = MEANING. We seem emotionally programmed to create meaning out of the mystery of life and the pursuit of any cause greater than ourselves meets the need of making life meaningful. Meaning also includes all religious and spiritual quests for they serve the same basic emotional need.

    SELF-CONGRUENCE – this is a new one that serves to make meaning out of our visions of ourselves and to allow us to accept who we are or justify our behaviors when we can’t. Emotionally healthy persons have a congruent self image, whereas many who are dysfunctional have an emotional inner conflict with who they want to be and who they actually are in their behaviors. This category is proposed to address the reality that our emotional states operate at both conscious and subconscious levels at the same time and in many there is a conflict. Where that conflict exists there is an emotional need (and an emotional effect) to comprehend it (thus the millions in therapy) or escape it (ie; addicts).

    On the Interpersonal side Validation is the emotional need that confirms and acknowledges our Uniqueness or Individuality on the intra-personal side. So they are connected and linked somehow.

    And I’ve used Connectedness where your term is Reciprocity as I think Connectedness to the tribe is inclusive of a need of reciprocity which only has relevance in a social context. It’s the tribes sense of fairness that defines the need for reciprocity. Connectedness also includes the concept of Acceptance for much the same reason. We need the acceptance of others to understand our place in the social structure which establishes our degree of CONTROL in our world.

    And I’ve placed EMPATHY as the other side of Self-Congruence as Empathy represents our need to be accepted regardless of whether we are congruent with our own self-image. It’s a need for unconditional acceptance or understanding that we are imperfect.

    I hope you find some of these useful even should you find they muddy the water in the short term as you continue to refine and develop the definitive model of the human emotional spectrum of needs in a nice neat elegant package.

  56. February 2, 2011 at 12:51 AM

    Hmm..I like this. Self actualization…

  57. February 2, 2011 at 1:21 AM

    Mazlow’s hierarchy seems to be a functional presentation, rather than a reality model. In other words we do not get all of level 1 before we go on to level 2 etc. So, for howevr long we live, we are endeavoring to fulfil all together. It is interesting to look at behavior as energy transfer. In a sense all self-development psychology seems to be about improving the efficiency of manufacturing. We might be manufacturing relationships, businesses, service, wealth, art etc. Efficiency means that we manufacture more while our actual internal remains the same, or even, with age, gets less. So we build external energy ‘prostheses’ to enhance our abilities. I think this is why the past 60 years have seen consistent interest in the ‘enhanced’ human eg ‘ironman’, batman. For some reason we have less cultural interest in female enhancements than male.
    Having said that, I do think that these fantasies are potentially destructive and can be linked to the economic crisis, fake images of people in media, etc. On the other hand, neuroplasticity research suggests that, for best brain function over life, we need strategies for learning, practice, and novelty.
    Interestingly, what interest me, is the relationship between aspiration, anxiety, effort, success & failure, evaluative learning,and so on – a learning loop effect. Likewise the effect of prayer and meditation on the learning or neuroplasticity remodeling of the brain is intriguing.

  58. February 2, 2011 at 2:06 AM

    Loved the fresh perspective. Why not ask Socrates or Descartes?

  59. February 2, 2011 at 2:09 AM

    Control of our reactions is one thing, but control of our circumstances is an illusion.

    Provision, Protection, Purpose and Relationship (including identity in context) in ascending order of need are relatively in line with what you are saying. As an underlying need included in all of them is the need for Grace (similar to what you call empathy), in order to move through our flaws and weaknesses.

    Our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being flow from our identity and context with relationships. The foundational relationship is with God, for which we were designed.

  60. February 2, 2011 at 2:53 AM

    i thnk it depends on the way u name things… i ve studied some psychology classes and sure we did talk bout maslow… i really understand what he means: there’s a hierarchy in our needs, so if we re starving, we can’t achieve greater hapiness since one of our primary needs has to be fulfilled first. so it s more about the order that is important to satisfy ones needs.
    if u have a look at it this way, then it s fine i d say.

    the need for drama – aint that more a sign of imbalance of the needs than a need itself? sure some ppl (well, maybe more than we d expect) kinda need their own lifes drama, but i believe thats because sth else is missing. if all their needs were fulfilled, they d not need that drama any more.
    uncertainties make u move on – so maybe in this way, we all kinda need em – but they appear when we re disbalanced. so in order to find our balance again, we have to move on – but we strive for balance more than imbalance, so the “drama” is not a need. it may function as a substitute for many ppl though.

  61. February 2, 2011 at 3:08 AM

    Interesting post, but too much to evaluate at one time.

    I have been blogging about “effectiveness” for a while since I have spent over 30 years thinking and implementing. There are dozens of experts I’ve studied; the key building blocks to my thinking are Covey, Mandino, and Timberlake.

    I follow my 19 rules of effectiveness daily. You can check out my blog at


    It describes the life strategies and ideas that resonated with me.

    A couple of other guiding principles:

    1. People do what works for them.
    2. One size does not fit all.
    3. You have to figure it out for yourself; if you internalize, you acheive something more lasting (self-actualization); extrinsic motivators lead to paranoia.

    Enough for now. I like your new references. Maslow is useful since it allows for considerable depth and breadth.

  62. Greg Martin
    February 2, 2011 at 3:23 AM

    Well done. I have enjoyed reading your analysis to great personal reward. I would like to append your thoughts in a particular area, that of family and more to the point, children.

    As a father, both natural and surrogate, I have found a great motivation in my family. I was raised with a strong family relationship and many times, both then and now, extending to the point of what I believe is sometimes a “burden.” Regardless of situations in my youth my father and mother were always there to teach, explain, guide, and, when required, to humble.

    Today I find myself in the same situation I believe my parents were years ago; many times in the course of the day there is a moment when a single question becomes profound and burdensome, blurs all of the lines of delineation in your analysis and its’ answers make up for several minutes of joy (the real motivation). The basic question is, “Is this a teachable moment?” Whether it is for daughters and sons, rookies and peers at work, other parents, or spouse and companions, et al. There is incredible personal joy in passing on knowledge, history and lore, or solving problems for a family member.

    I mention this for your thoughtful analysis because the bliss also leads to personal problems. After my divorce depression reached a new low when I realized that for 35 years (since I was 18 years old), I had been living my life gaining motivation through the lives of the family members around me. So being alone meant I had lost my personal motivation. I have moved on.

    I would agree that much of my thoughts are interlinked with several of the categories, but I don’t see the section where I drive the kids to soccer or school, etc. I do it because it has to be done. Nor do I see the section where I make pancakes every Saturday morning for 18 years while the wife sleeps in or playing games with the kids while getting them dressed for church. In the words of my mother and father, “the sounds of a happy home don’t just happen, you have to make them happen.” For my own understanding, I would place this in a separate classification called familial and it could easily include spiritual.

    Thank you for your enjoyable item.

  63. February 2, 2011 at 4:46 AM

    Let me first congratulate you on a well written article and yes human behaviour is a very interesting subject to delve into if thoughts cerebral is our collective cup of tea. Its after all about me, you, us, what makes us tick, etc.
    I’d like to start by giving you my interpretation of Tony Robbins model stack. Certainty – there are many things we need to be there for us to feel secure. There are certain things which we completely take for granted for example…the outcome of certain actions…leading upto expected results. There are a lot of certainties in our daily lives and they are a necessity.
    Now to come to uncertainties – the minute I read it I gelled with the word as a definite necessity. If there was no uncertainty growth/advancement does not take place. Its such an important concept in our lives. Uncertainties compel us to put in our best effort in any or all endeavour. There are no guarantees in life and I thnk that’s good as it stops us becoming complacent. Complacency is the death knell of any growth and only leads to stagnation.
    Its such a coincidence that I watched a really short video of Cialdini’s influence triggers or rather persuasion triggers just last night. Mark Joyner of Simpleology sent it to me and what strikes me as even more amazing is that I watched the clip twice simply because I did not agree with him on his principle of scarcity the first time I heard it. It can only be relevant in certain cases like for example we sometimes procrastinate and put off certain actions for later and it thus acts as a trigger to quicker action. Your example of superbowl tickets does not fit into the parameter of the word. Cialdini was possibly referring to creating a scenario where one is forced to decide one way or another (marketing gimmick).
    There is a certain age for self-actualisation to define “just who you are” after you have been there and done that. It refers to ” I ” in its very core.
    Have you ever come across lines like
    ‘WE ARE THE ONE WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR’ (part of Hopi prayer)
    These lines contain the ultimate truth of this world. The meaning of these seemingly inocuous lines will forever change the way you and everybody else reading them and propel you on a new and amazing quest to truly understanding their significance.
    RECIPROCITY and its inner values will only be understood when you realise that we are all one. A bad thought or a bad action against another human being will not affect them but rather you yourself. It is so profound and life changing that if only man knew this secret it would forever change his behaviour towards another.
    He would then know that he is harming himself only and no one else. That is how the Law of Reciprocity works and since laws are precise and unchangeable then so is this knowledge. You will realise that you need to guard your thoughts zealously for a thought in this minute translates into an action in the next. It is truly a life changing subject. I have authored a book on this called Mastermind. The link to it
    will be on my blog above. I have about 8 blogs on this subject so do share and read. You will be fascinated ….I do guarantee that.
    God Bless

  64. February 2, 2011 at 5:29 AM

    Loved it!!! Like the way in which you moved through the various models and came up with sense.

    Models per se require some level of “fuzzy logic” and therefore will remain short of explaining the most extraordinary beings that we have met so far – other humans.

    Thanks again

  65. February 2, 2011 at 5:38 AM

    Excellent post btw. I love that you bring out almost every psychologists in picture to be analysed. :)
    funny when I read this all I could think of is how I cope in my marriage. It’s the best sample of psychological exploration. I do think that for one to be psychologically adept in a society, they need to be able to make their loved ones happy at home first. When everyone’s happy at home, they’ll go out there to contribute better. if all 6 zggliions of us are happy at home then maybe we’ll be honestly free from wondering why we’re so unhappy. :)

  66. February 2, 2011 at 5:55 AM

    Hmmm I will have to look at the model more closley. I will need compare the past “real world” to the world we live intoday – that being a “Cyber / Avatar world”. I am not sure if Maslow’s Hierarchy has any validity in todays society.

  67. February 2, 2011 at 7:12 AM

    I think there is one more level, and some of your comments hinted at this.
    In is the opposite of #3 The Need to Validate One’s Identity. That is, completely give up one’s identity. “#7 To Completely Lose One’s Identity.” This is actually self-realization, enlightenment, etc. Once we give up our ego, our individuality, we realize we are not what we appear to be; separate. All the other levels will automatically fall away. Every mystic, saint, prophet….has said the same. As human beings, we are the only creature on this planet that has the ability to self-realize.

  68. J
    February 2, 2011 at 8:03 AM

    I like reading your post as I believe you had been very diligent in raising our awareness about the variety of ideas relating to human development that are available out there. Your musings, I must say also are accessible AND palatable.

    I was somewhat familiar with Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ before reading this article. However, I noticed myself asking more critical questions when I plough through your world of words. I haven’t had much at this stage – maybe, also because I was so eager to post a response before words fail me! LOL

    I am still enjoying thinking along with the people of this community. I am still quietly mulling over some of the intricacies of the various propositions presented.

    Anyway, I notice that this is truly the first time I read online posts – and responses to posts – that exhibited the writers’ high degree of good manners and thoughtfulness – in all sense of the word – with a lot of care shown also towards the standard of writing itself. I think we have quite a DIVERSE range of ideas! Many are presented with a large dose of intellectual curiosity alongside with a conspicuous sense of respect and empathy for fellow thinkers/seekers.

    I genuinely marvel at how this site seems to elicit the kind of respectable behaviour we should expect from civil readers.

    Thanks for all your postings.

    – J

  69. February 2, 2011 at 8:26 AM

    The very mention of Maslow brings back memories of my University days and studying Organisational Behaviour, but I’ll leave that for another day.

    You come up with some interesting pointers there – every human being has the ability to work their way up the ladder, should thwy wish to. However, in truth, they are governed (or even restricted) by their environment and circumstances. The most obvious comparison would be living in a democratic society as opposed to a modern-day dictatorship. You know what you can achieve, however there are barriers in place to stop you getting there. The point around doing something for the “greater good”, it’s more likely that those living in well developed countries will tend to dedicate their time to helping others because they can, note I am not being critical of those in less developed countries, they simply wouldn’t get the chance.

    Such models need to be flexible to ensure they fulfil individual needs i.e. someone achieving the “3rd” step obtains the same satisfaction as the person who reaches the “6th step”, different backgrounds, however same outcome, realisation of achievement, no matter how small.

  70. February 2, 2011 at 9:06 AM

    Maslow’s Hierarchy reminds me of the Seven Chakras. Interesting!

    • February 3, 2011 at 5:01 PM

      Found that observation pretty much summarizes the same thing, just a few thousand years earlier wisdom.

  71. John Broomfield
    February 2, 2011 at 9:11 AM

    Please do not complicate Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.

    Admire it like a piece of art drawn to improve our understanding of all human behavior including the irrational moments we all have.

    Or come up with your own theory.

    Many thanks.

  72. janeanger
    February 2, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    This was interesting! Thanks!

  73. February 2, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    I wanted to say thank you to everyone for all the amazing thoughts and contributions! I am overwhelmed by the comments and feedback. It’s going to take me a while to absorb it all, and tinker with these thoughts. Also, the vast majority of people have been very encouraging, which is much appreciated when you’re starting to venture new thoughts. And in this case, I had no idea the article would end up having this many readers.

    There have been one or two comments that have asked about my motivations. I’ve left those comments available for viewing. But I feel compelled to mention a couple of things in response. First, I don’t have any paid links, or other monetizing devices, on this blog. I don’t make any money through online means. I do use some copywriting techniques when I title and phrase these entries, because in the hope of promoting this blog, I want them to be interesting and inviting to read. But that’s as far as it goes.

    I wrote this entry because I was trying to crystallize some thoughts on why people do what they do. I wanted to kick off a conversation that people would find interesting. I’m curious about motives for the sake of the curiosity itself, and not to try and find new ways to manipulate people. I wanted to articulate some basic needs in a way that is most resonant and most relatable. It’s personally empowering to be able to say, aha…that’s why I do that! This information has a lot of general value to different kinds of people. For example, “sometime actors” like me can do better scene analysis if they have more insight into what specific itch the character is trying to scratch.

    My goal is not to propose the new academically-accepted model of man. My goal is to articulate precisely certain basic motives is such a way that we can see ourselves and people we know. There are no judgments involved, no attempts to vastly oversimplify the human psyche, and no attempts to omit God from the picture. And I’m absolutely not saying that simply because we feel a compulsion to act in a certain way means we should act that way, or are justified in acting that way.

    I am, as some people have pointed out, not a psychologist. I’m not any kind of accredited authority in this subject, and I do not presume to replace accepted academic maxims with my own crude thoughts. I’m just a guy trying to get his brain around complex ideas. If, after all that, I still come off as a use car salesman, then maybe there’s some truth in that.

    Thank you all for your time and your thoughts. I appreciate it.


    • February 3, 2011 at 1:19 PM

      I appreciate your humility with handling this topic. It’s refreshing to see someone say to the world, “Hey, I think this is intriguing. Here is what I know and what I don’t know. Let’s talk.” I’ve felt uneasy about the hierarchy of needs ever since I learned of it in college. As far as I can think it through, the problem is not that he isn’t broad enough, the problem is that he is using a thermometer to check voltage. What I mean is that absolute root of every human action is spiritual not psychological. Our greatest need is a spiritual need and not a psychophysiological need. Before the enlightenment, the error was to personify and spiritualize everything (magic, animals, nature, etc.). Now the problem is that scholars de-spiritualize everything, even man who is spiritual. In the Bible, I have found the most comprehensive explanation of human behavior and motivation ever proposed. It is honest and offensive and logical. As you have pointed out, no other model has struck at the root. I think it is ironic that we have had the answer for thousands of years, but you can’t prove it by the scientific method so we’re still looking. But using the scientific method to try to prove or disprove something spiritual is, as I said, like using a thermometer to check voltage. Just because the thermometer can’t detect voltage doesn’t mean it’s not there. It just means it’s the wrong tool for the job. These aren’t my original ideas, just ones that I’ve heard and make sense to me. If anything else comes along that makes more sense I’d be glad to hear it out, but so far nothing has.

      • February 3, 2011 at 1:25 PM

        To go even further on my analogy, you can use a thermometer to check the effects of voltage on something like a heating element, but that’s still not checking for voltage, it’s just checking for the effects. In the same way, science can discover the effects of the spiritual but it can never study the spiritual itself.

      • February 8, 2011 at 1:00 AM

        Mind replaces a thermometer and a volt meter. Mind knows if body has a temperature and Mind knows if current (LIFE) is flowing through the body.It is the SPIRIT that gives life to the body

  74. February 2, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    Hi There, I really like your discussion on the Hierarchy of Needs. Just wondered if you have read ‘The Games People Play’ book by Byrne. Could this offer any further thought for your theories.

    Keep up the great blog. Best wishes Maria

  75. February 2, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    How do we balance our lives?

    The way that people interact from a spiritual or “soul” perspective is something I have been considering for a long time now.
    Please have a look at my thoughts on my blog at http://soulbodyreality.wordpress.com/ and add your comments.

  76. February 2, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    we all have needs that for sure i like the pyramid from wikipedia its amzing you can do a pictagram for about anything my biggest need to be happy in life

  77. February 2, 2011 at 6:32 PM

    Very interesting post. Many variations and influencing factors that make everyone unique, each by having their own set of needs. Good job!

  78. February 3, 2011 at 2:10 AM

    I think maybe reciprocity deserves its own bullet point, but the problem is that it DOES bleed into some of the other categories — so maybe the trick is to think of this list less as “bullet points” and more along the lines of a Venn Diagram — where certain parts bleed into and influence others.

  79. February 5, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    This is an interesting concept- needs and addiction are tricky to work with. I’d know- my grandpa is an alcoholic.


  80. ordinaryovershare
    February 6, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    You’ve gotten a lot of comments on this post already, but in case no one has mentioned it, I think the need for certainty, control, and reciprocity could all go under the category “structure.” In this case, the need for structure in our world, not only in our personal lives.

    I also think you’re right on about the scarcity principle not really fitting into these categories. It is a principle, not a human need. It’s part of the ways our needs express, and this, should work with all the needs, not be subsumed by them. Awesome job! I will be returning to this from time to time!

  81. EndlessExcursions
    February 7, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    I find that a human need to advance has to do with natural selection as the other needs are cultural aspects. One need that humans definitely need to rethink, you touched it on bad fit 2, is the need for materialism. Of course people don’t need it, but it is a need to them if they set it aside from a want.

  82. finding my way
    February 8, 2011 at 9:01 AM

    You’ve given me much to think about and research, thanks.

    I do have one initial thought, which may have some relevance:

    I believe empathy shouldn’t be tied to immediate or short term reciprocation and we have vast stores of “emotional energy”, perhaps we allow those influences to make it increasingly more difficult to tap into them?

  83. Eowyn Fair
    February 8, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    You article looks very interesting. I didn’t have time to read everything, but I think it is important to mention that these things are almost mutually necessary; even a starving child needs love when they are hungry. It may not be a priority to find friendship and love when you are hungry or need shelter, but you can certainly feel the absence of both the physical and emotional necessities. Most of America has those basic needs met: clothing, food, shelter, etc. and is still seeking attention, validation, and love.

  84. Shawna
    February 13, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    I think you have done an excellent job incorporating several theories to make your own model. I agree with many aspects of it. However, I have also known people who have no need for thrill or drama, so I question the inclusion of this category (even though I personally love thrill and drama). These are people who have a strong desire for control. I would also suggest the addition of a category that addresses the Need to Strive Toward Goals. This is not the same as the Need for Advancement and Mastery. I think that the happiest people are those who can tell you on any given day what they are looking forward to in their own lives. These “goals” may be something simple, such as a vacation or birthday party, so putting them under another category doesn’t really fit. I’d like to know what you think about including this category.

  85. February 20, 2011 at 4:15 AM

    I feel you need to ask a few more Why?s before you come up with your definitive pyramid. e.g. Why ‘Need for Control’? and then further Why?s to your answer(s). Best luck in your search.

  86. February 20, 2012 at 1:56 AM

    1st. …..Luv your writing !! Super interesting to those, (me), that seek what causes US to, think, behave, & react to Our inner and Outer Worlds. I have a bit of sumthin’ that may help You on a point You raised,…………….. ‘SCARCITY. WHAT A TOUGH ONE TO PLACE !
    ” The “Scarcity” principal says that people will tend to value, and consequently demand, that which is in short or decreasing supply. But even if we are right to ascribe value to something simply because it is scarce, why chase it?”
    So Many,…’PLACES’, to attempt to fit it in ‘somewhere’. I came up with;…(in no particular order),….Greed, … Control, …. Present or Future : ‘Power’, (with, ‘Valuable Possessions’). Self,.. Esteem, & Worth,……’Self Satisfaction’, as in, ‘The Hunter / Killer’, & ‘Gatherer’. Those are enough for me to write, and perhaps these have been expressed in earlier posts, and I didn’t read ALL of them, (I do have to sleep …LoL !). Perhaps they all mean the same,….but they’re my late night thoughts about Your Terricic Info !! I need to know some psychology with what I do and can be found by, ‘Clicking’ on ‘The Link’. Would be honoured to have a mind bond to some degree with You.

  87. Carol
    July 11, 2012 at 4:48 AM

    I think Haidt answers a lot of your questions and begs a few more. I think his metaphor of the elephant and the rider is a good one.
    The current debate regarding Rationalism vs Intuisionism is an interesting one. have you taken a look at Sam Harris’ and Daniel Dennett’s work?

    • July 20, 2012 at 10:06 AM

      Your points are very good. I think Haidt is a very smart psychologist. I don’t know Harris and Dennett yet, but I will take a look. I get a lot of my insight on Rationalism vs. Intuitionism from Daniel Kahneman, and I think Haidt draws from him as well.

  88. Luke
    August 23, 2015 at 11:14 PM

    I’m a late comer to this discussion. But, if anyone is listening I would posit a few thoughts First, needs, as Maslow has pointed out in his writing, are not the only motivator of behavior. Environmental conditioning, for example, also motivates behavior. The most significant factor in such conditioning is culture. As a result of the subjectivity of culture, the satisfaction of needs and the prioritization of the same are not universal. However, the needs themselves are for the most part. You might say that behavior is where genes, needs, and conditioning meet. Interestingly, culture derives from the organized masses, which are governed by the state. The state, of course, exists as a direct result of the development of mass agriculture (physical need for food, see Jarod Diamond), and safety (i.e. safety from external groups + protection of individual rights). If you take away both sustainable food/water/shelter sources and safety you get revolution or something worse like Nazi Germany. See also U.S. v. Katz.

    Much of the “unpredictable” behavior of human beings arises from the myopic limitations of the mind and its tendency to overcompensate. This is a point that Maslow also observes (although not in the same language and not fully). Human beings are creatures of habit (this is reflective of concepts like control and certainty). They become comfortable with the coping mechanisms and adaptations that they cultivate to obtain what they need (mostly unconsciously). However, in individuals who lack critical thinking and introspection (i.e. what we might call simply “reactors”), adaptations can, and often do, become exalted and magnified beyond their original utility. Also, circumstances may change that render them obsolete. This behavior results because an individual fears changing good old habits. Change may be difficult in the short-run for example. It may involve some failure. Also, as a defense mechanism they may even increase their reliance on the habit in order to justify its existence. When this happens consciousness becomes increasingly myopic and consequences that a more objective person would take into account are not factored into the equation of decision-making. In many cases, the object or behavior becomes, for lack of a better term, deified.

    The processes I have mentioned above are some of the reasons why odd or perplexing behaviors manifest themselves in human beings. It is not so much a function of a particular need as the gross distortion of needs, their relative importance, and resulting blindness to objective reality. This is what the Bible OT calls idolatry. It is what Jesus speaks about constantly. It is all related, of course, to the usurpation of the mind (creativity and thought), the heart (desire), and the soul (identity) by the finite. Anxiety brought on by uncertainty, for example, results from an unconscious understanding of the finiteness of the idol of focus.

  1. February 1, 2011 at 11:58 AM
  2. February 1, 2011 at 2:12 PM
  3. February 1, 2011 at 4:16 PM
  4. February 1, 2011 at 6:22 PM
  5. February 2, 2011 at 2:27 AM
  6. February 2, 2011 at 4:23 AM
  7. February 2, 2011 at 5:23 AM
  8. February 2, 2011 at 9:17 AM
  9. February 2, 2011 at 1:36 PM
  10. February 8, 2011 at 8:45 AM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: