Guest Post by Angelita Williams
Whenever we study the earth, its processes, and its inhabitants, we are tempted to think of ourselves, humans, as separate from our environment. We focus on our roles as observers because common knowledge tells us that we are somehow above it all.
Evolutionary psychology, a relatively new branch in psychology, rethinks human behavior based on how we are, at the end of the day, very much driven by animal instincts, although these instincts may manifest themselves in strikingly different ways in our modern world.
To give an example of this somewhat new train of thought–in which man is observed as completely integrated into his environment and not standing apart from it–is a proposed refashioning of the famous pyramid of human behavior, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The pyramid is considered a universal standard that is taught in schools throughout the world. But, as a recent Miller-McCune article reports, we may have it all wrong.
Dr. Douglas Kendrick recently published an article in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. In it, he argues that the lofty-sounding “self-actualization” that tops Maslow’s pyramid should be removed altogether and replaced with the much more humdrum human activity of “parenting”. Kendrick also suggests that sex is not an “immediate physiological need” as Maslow had said, equating sex to the need for food and water, but is rather embedded in our deepest instinct to reproduce.
Although it may be a bit depressing to think of our behavior as simply animal, Kendrick cautions that this is a misinterpretation of his work and of evolutionary psychology in general. When asked about what the point is of a human’s extraordinary capacity for creativity and innovation, Kendrick notes:
“You could argue that a peacock’s display is as beautiful as anything any human artist has ever produced…And yet it has a clear biological function [to attract a mate]. To connect it to its biological roots does not explain it away.”
Kendrick says of the notion of self-actualization: ““What has produced those feelings of competiveness? Why do people follow them? That has to do with mating…Self-actualization is not a fundamental goal in itself.”
In other words, even though our most basic animal drives aren’t necessarily made apparent in our daily lives, they still exist and express themselves in increasingly complex ways as we evolve.
Kendrick’s suggestions on the revised pyramid are, of course, the product of mere speculation. But it’s certainly something to think about as we ponder our place and function on this planet.
This guest post is contributed by Angelita Williams, who writes on the topics of online college courses. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: angelita.williams7 @gmail.com.