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InRenovating the Pyramid of Needs: Contemporary Extensions Built Upon Ancient Foundations” Kenrick, Griskevicious, Neuberg, & Schaller, (2010) modified Maslow’s pyramid to reflect a controversial, more ‘up-to-date’ approach, based on findings from neuroscience, developmental & evolutionary psychology —> which assumes that everything in human nature is in our genes, & can only be there if it helped our Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors to survive & reproduce.

😴 These sciences claim that Maslow’s Pyramid is old-fashioned & needs revamping because it missed some very basic facts about human nature not well understood in his time, but have since been emphasized by ongoing research & theory. (Arizona State U.)

In the new pyramid, reproduction of our genes is considered one of humankind’s most fundamental drives. Self-actualization may be an important concept, but is no longer considered an evolutionary requirement, & so has been eliminated. Replacing it are 3 motives researchers believe Maslow did not account for: mate acquisition, mate retention, & parenting. Kenrick et al. pointed to universal human efforts to create & maintain family bonds, & the parental investment in raising young. (Explanation of each TREE ⬇️).

In addition to this dramatic change at the top, researchers add need- overlapping. This replaces Maslow’s initial idea that once a need is met it disappears & the individual moves on to the next level.
Kenrick et al. explained that this is not accurate. The reality is that even if a person had fulfilled a level & then gone on to the next – they may have to revert to earlier ones.

This is because there’s an ongoing interplay between our internal motivations & environmental situations, either by opportunities or threats, determining which needs capture our attention at any point in life. “Cognitive systems (the human mind) are biologically prepared to learn or have evolved a vigilance for stimuli relevant to fundamental goals. Neither the stimuli nor goals exist in isolation – the psychological system has co-evolved with features of the ecology.”

HOWEVER, other researchers – such as those in the emerging field of Existential psychology, & the subjective well-beingness of Positive Psychology – have called for retaining the emphasis on personal meaning & self-actualization.

▶︎ Lonnie Aarssen (Ontario, Ca) suggests that Kenrick’s version is also missing something important.
He offers a revision, where: ” …. the exalted pyramid cap represents gene transmission success – not a motivation as such, but the overarching functional (adaptive) consequence of all of the underlying needs / drives.”

He combines Kenrick’s levels 1-3 into the Survival Drive, 4-7 into the Sexual/ Familial Drives. Between them he proposes a “…. greater emphasis on a ‘narrative of the Self’, involving motivational elements that include & expand on the idea of self-actualization…. important requirements because they help people deal with – & mask – the human reality of impermanence (we all die.)

Different ‘sub-selves’, defined by pyramid goals, are activated by environmental cues. So we might expect activation of the ‘Legacy-Drive’ subself vs. the ‘Leisure-Drive subself to be based on local ecology and culture.
One recent study of responses to mortality salience provided an intriguing example of this: European Americans tended to focus on achieving symbolic immortality (legacy), while East Asians generally wanted to engage in & enjoy life (leisure).

There can also be a blurring or blending of the various drives. For example, Legacy functions (2) also feel good, which satisfy the Leisure Drive (3), and can gather resources or earn favor in one’s social group, reaping advantage for the Survival Drive (1).

OR combining all 4 levels: Accumulation of wealth ensures survival, but also earns status (legacy), allowing for conspicuous consumption (leisure), & can attract romance (sex). (More….)

Aarssen notes that the evolutionary roots of Survival & Sexual/Familial Drives (1 & 4) are supported by a large body of literature. However, Legacy & Leisure Drives (2 & 3) are mostly hypotheses yet to be tested with more research. The assumption is that they served our ancestors well by masking consciousness of our limited life-span, (a potentially incapacitating ‘curse’) – at least until we reach reproductive maturity, so we can pass on our genes.
He believes such research can lay the groundwork for a new view of the evolutionary roots of human nature & social life.

NEXT: Modern Pyramids #2

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