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Issue #33 - Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs ⛰️

Mental Models Weekly
Issue #33 - Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs ⛰️
By Julia Clavien • Issue #33 • View online
The current pandemic is having a devastating impact on many lives. It seems nearly everyone is affected in some way, whether it’s having lost social connection, lost a job, or lost health or even life.
All of this loss had me reflecting on an old model you might have heard of from psychology - Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

What is the Hierarchy of Needs?
According to Abraham Maslow, we have five levels of needs: physiological, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization. The most basic survival needs are at the base of the pyramid, progressing up to more complex needs at the top.
Plateresca / Getty Images
Plateresca / Getty Images
It is quite true that man lives by bread alone — when there is no bread. But what happens to man’s desires when there is plenty of bread and when his belly is chronically filled?
At once other (and “higher”) needs emerge and these, rather than physiological hungers, dominate the organism. And when these in turn are satisfied, again new (and still “higher”) needs emerge and so on
Why is this interesting?
If you’re reading this post, you are probably not worried about meeting your physiological needs, and you have probably spent quite a bit of time focused on the needs at the top of the pyramid.
However, this era of pandemic has triggered a reprioritization of needs for many of us - often on a lower level of the hierarchy. Many are now focused on something towards the middle of the pyramid or even the bottom. This is indicated by behaviors like buying up of supplies, and reassessing finances to meet needs of safety for example.
I think the model is even useful to consider in terms of business - many businesses have dropped down the hierarchy and are just looking to meet basic survival needs, rather than looking for growth.
I should note that this model has been criticized a fair bit, it wasn’t developed very scientifically and has cultural bias, and further research hasn’t found needs follow a strict hierarchy.
It’s still a useful model to add to your mental latticework, remembering the maxim:
All models are wrong, but some are useful!
Evan Qu
Evan Qu
Want to go deeper?
🔖 Here’s a longer write up on Maslow’s hierarchy
🐦 For those of you building digital products, I like this from Dan Olsen on the web user hierarchy of needs
😂 But what about dogs needs? Here’s the hierarchy of dog needs
🧠It’s a good time to revisit survivorship bias
Got comments?
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🐦 Tweet @juliaclavien
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Julia Clavien

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