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Metadata of Note

Type:🍃 Leaf [Nomenclature present here.]

Source (Article): Who Created Maslow’s Iconic Pyramid?

Tags:  #Maslow’s Hierarchy #History #randomfact #psychology

Date: April 22nd, 2022


[Maslow’s Hierarchy] is one of the most popular frameworks in the world of management studies; however, based on recent research by Todd Bridgman, Stephen Cummings, and John Ballard, some surprising insights are revealed, including the fact that Maslow was not the one who represented his framework in a pyramid, and neither was he the one who advocated for the various ways in which the framework is perceived today.


Maslow’s hierarchy of needs


It’s clear from his writings that he did not view his hierarchy of needs like a video game — as though you reach one level and then unlock the next level, never again returning to the “lower” levels. He made it quite clear that we are always going back and forth in the hierarchy, and we can target multiple needs at the same time.


A few interesting insights from the article

  • Maslow was not the first psychologist to develop a theory of human needs: Another psychologist, Walter Langer, presented a theory of physical, social, and egoistic needs that appeared alongside Maslow’s in an earlier textbook.
  • The “pyramid” misrepresents Maslow’s true definition of the theory: A few of the misrepresentations include, (a) you can only move up a level when you’re 100% satisfied on the current level. (c) you are only motivated to satisfy one need at a time. (c) a satisfied need no longer affects behaviour. (d) everyone has the same needs arranged & activated in the same order.
    • “In his 1943 article in Psychological Review Maslow anticipates these criticisms and says they would give a false impression of his theory. Maslow believed that people have partially satisfied needs and partially unsatisfied needs at the same time, that a lower-level need may be only partially met before a higher-level need emerges, and that the order in which needs emerge is not fixed.”
    • Douglas McGregor was the key figure who (mis)popularized Maslow’s theory. “McGregor saw the potential for the hierarchy of needs to be applied by managers, but for ease of translation he deliberately ignored many of the nuances and qualifications that Maslow had articulated.”
  • Keith Davis & Charles McDermid were the creators of the “pyramid”: Keith wrote a widely used management textbook in 1957 that illustrated the framework in the form of a series of steps in a right-angled triangle leading to a peak. “The top-level shows a suited executive raising a flag, reminiscent of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima.”
    • But this representation didn’t catch on, although planted some seeds. It was really Charles McDermid, a consulting psychologist, who wrote an article titled “how money motivates men” in 1960 where he argued that the pyramid can be applied to generate maximum motivation at the lowest cost.
  • Authors of the research study propose the “ladder” as a replacement for the “pyramid”: Todd, Stephen, and John propose that Maslow’s theory be represented in the form of a ladder so it captures its essence of it better, and removes the pyramid from management textbooks.

The pyramid is shown with horizontal lines demarcating the different levels. This makes it difficult to imagine a person simultaneously being affected by different needs. When one is on a ladder, multiple rungs are occupied by the feet and hands. Other rungs may be leaned on as well. Also, a ladder does a better job of conveying Maslow’s idea that people can move up and down the hierarchy.

  • This once again shows that what we call #History is nothing but a widely agreed subjective opinion of the masses, which as is shown from this example, can be false as a result of a few figures misrepresenting key details.


Also, another interesting note on Maslow’s Theory of Needs is that he added another layer to the theory in the last few years of his life. Once again, something left out by history.