Abraham Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs is one of the iconic images of psychology. The simple diagram, first introduced in the 1940s, spells out the underlying motivations that drive our day-to-day behaviour and points the way to a more meaningful life. It is elegant, approachable and uplifting.
But is it also out of date?
That’s the argument of a team of evolutionary psychologists led by Douglas Kenrick of Arizona State University. Their new formulation is intellectually stimulating, but emotionally deflating. “Self-actualisation,” the noble-sounding top layer of Maslow’s hierarchy, in their model has not only been dethroned, it has been relegated to footnote status.
It has been replaced at the top with a more mundane motivation Maslow didn’t even mention: “Parenting.”