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June 30, 2010 10:37 AM   Subscribe

In a fundamental re-think of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, a research team lead by Arizona State University's Doug Kenrick has replaced the personal need to achieve status and respect, culminating in self-actualization, with the biological imperative to find a mate and reproduce, culminating in parenting. Kenrick also replaces Maslow's strict design, in which needs replace one another, with a design in which needs overlap over the course of a lifetime.

Kenrick's pyramid preferences the burgeoning field of evolutionary psychology, in contrast with Maslow's developmental psychology. “There is such a thing as self-actualization, developing your inner potential, a self-need to become brilliant at whatever you’re doing,” according to Kenrick, “I just don’t think it’s divorced from biology." Opponents are reluctant to embrace evolutionary psychology because "[i]t views life as something of a cosmic joke (presumably on us). In the words of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, 'It desacralizes, it reduces, it animalizes.'"
posted by l33tpolicywonk (126 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
Opponents are reluctant to embrace evolutionary psychology because "[i]t views life as something of a cosmic joke (presumably on us). In the words of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, 'It desacralizes, it reduces, it animalizes.'"

Science does not work that way. Science (and yes, psychology is a science) only cares about explanatory power.
posted by Jpfed at 10:44 AM on June 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


This will be a big hit among the Park Slope stroller-pushing set, I predict.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:48 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Burgeoning? I thought it was waning. Opponents are reluctant to embrace evolutionary psychology not because of what its "views" are, but because it's bad science -- it reasons backward, taking an observed condition in the present and then casting about in the past for a cause, which leads people to posit causes without understanding whether those causes actually contributed to the effect. This process is highly prone to social bias.

Also, hasn't Maslow's theory, despite being an influential contribution at its time, generally been rejected as too simplistic in that it implies humans deal with their core needs in succession and can only develop in the higher brackets once lower needs are taken care of? Empirically, it's clear that's not strictly how development works, because even people who are starving and oppressed do develop socially and spiritually.
posted by Miko at 10:49 AM on June 30, 2010 [45 favorites]


I'd rather self-actualize than reproduce. One implies volition - thus its rightly at the top of the hierarchy of needs - the other implies biological instinct unthinkingly. However, one could say that one chooses to self actualize by focusing on parenting and nurturing but can one say the reverse?

"I'm pregnant therefore I think" ?

I don't think so

On the other hand, I do agree that there are probably more overlaps and concurrent needs (we'll always need shelter, food, etc regardless of what we're doing) and that's a step forward on the Maslow pyramid.
posted by infini at 10:51 AM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


The problem with evolutionary psychology, though, as has been discussed on the blue many, many times, is that its explanatory power is biased by its cultural setting. There are so many problematic things with this restructuring... it doesn't connect mental/emotional motivations to biology, it puts them in subordination to it. Instead, why not look at how the physical and the mental interact dynamically, each influencing the other? It is, ultimately, too simplistic (the fault of all evolutionary psychology, I think). That would be far more interesting, I think; let's just say that the desire to "reproduce" IS the ultimate goal of all living creature -- aren't there other ways to fulfill that rather than through a purely physical/biological means? Teaching, for example. Also, how does it deal with people who choose not to reproduce, or the existence of homosexuality? It's a very oversimplified model of an entire species that doesn't seem to deal with individual difference very well. This first comment on the first link said it all:

"Very interesting! But, alas, it doesn't replace Maslow's classic pyramid as Maslow is speaking on a different level of analysis. Genetics and evolution are informative, just as studying the electronics in the latest generation of TV sets compared to past generations ... But what's PLAYING on the TV interests me more. True, there is some interaction between hardware and software ... Which leads to yet another level of analysis! "
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:52 AM on June 30, 2010 [9 favorites]


University of Michigan psychologist Christopher Peterson found more than 766,000 images of Maslow’s pyramid on the Internet.

I had hope at one time that once the novelty of Google searches wore off, people would stop quoting the number of search results for some term as indicative of, well, anything at all. That hope gets fainter every day.
posted by echo target at 10:52 AM on June 30, 2010 [15 favorites]


Also, developmental psychology wasn't just "Maslow's" and isn't set in opposition to evolutionary psychology, per so - evolutionary psychology is a field of inquiry within developmental psychology. Developmental psychology the larger field of inquiry which seeks to account for the changes that take place in an individual's thoughts, reasoning, and behavior over the course of an individual lifetime, and hasn't been replaced by anything.
posted by Miko at 10:52 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is Evolutionary Psychology really 'burgeoning'? I was under the impression that people are taking it less and less seriously.
Science does not work that way. Science (and yes, psychology is a science) only cares about explanatory power.
Yeah, which Evo Psych can't really do very well. There isn't any way to test the hypotheses and you end up with a bunch of just-so stories about humans 'on the savanna' or something.

Plus, this is ASU were talking about. I didn't think anyone took Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs seriously as anything other then a literary trope, really.
posted by delmoi at 10:53 AM on June 30, 2010


Parenting is the epitome of a person's needs? Parenting?
Dude has been smelling baby heads way too much.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:54 AM on June 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


You know, I always look at one guy replacing another guy's list of "important things to human beings" as, uh sort of a yawn. This is attempting to objectify the very subjective decision of what we want out of our lives. As such, yeah, well you know, that's just like, your opinion, man.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:54 AM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


EvoPsych explains whatever they want it to, however they want it to. That's why it isn't science.
posted by OmieWise at 10:54 AM on June 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


This comes uncomfortably close to pathologizing my desire not to reproduce, and the idea of overlapping needs isn't new.
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 10:54 AM on June 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


Saxon Kane- I should note that my statement is not specifically regarding or defending evolutionary psychology*. I simply mean to say that desacralizing/reducing/animalizing is not relevant to scientific discussion; explanatory power is.

*Everything I've seen to date of evolutionary psychology is that it does not actually predict, but presents explanations post-hoc. Maybe I just haven't seen the good stuff.
posted by Jpfed at 10:56 AM on June 30, 2010


I'm into the series of actions by which humans reproduce. Actual reproduction, not so much.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:56 AM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Saxon Kane: "Also, how does it deal with people who choose not to reproduce, or the existence of homosexuality?"

The pyramid uses the word "parenting", not "reproducing" which (absent legal barriers) is something that homosexuals regularly show both the ability and desire to do.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:56 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, which Evo Psych can't really do very well

Right. The post was framed as "These two sides are in opposition". My saying that side 2 has irrelevant objections was not intended as an endorsement of side 1.
posted by Jpfed at 10:58 AM on June 30, 2010


Evolutionary psych : science :: The Da Vinci Code : literature
posted by speicus at 10:58 AM on June 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


Is it really necessary to have little slivers of the bottom tier needs extend all the way to the top? Did anyone mistake the original layout as suggesting that having breathed once you needn't worry about that ever again?
posted by Babblesort at 11:03 AM on June 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Or, maybe opponents are reluctant to embrace evolutionary psychology because so much if it is a series of just so stories used to justify traditional social norms by recasting them as hard-wired into our biology rather than subject to the ever-changing trends of human interaction.

That said, the new pyramid is interesting, but I can't help but think that it's rather more narrow in focus than the original and excludes a whole spectrum of typical human behavior. Maslow's pyramid applies to everyone to a greater or lesser extent; Kenrick's pyramid implicitly casts anyone who doesn't want a life partner or to reproduce as abnormal.
posted by bettafish at 11:06 AM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Evolutionary psych : science :: The Da Vinci Code : literature

Man, I'm gonna love Evo. psych! I tried to get into science, but it was stodgy and dull. I loved The Da Vinci Code, because it was all *BAM* bad-ass professor and *WHAM* crazy albino monk and *POWIE* the muvvafunkin Illuminati!
posted by filthy light thief at 11:06 AM on June 30, 2010


Also - Every time I see Evo Psych I read it as Emo Psych. Presumably studying of the impact of grade school taunting on post-pubescent development.
posted by Babblesort at 11:07 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does this mean that I'm not actually human, since I don't want to have any children? I have long suspected that this might in fact be the case. I eagerly await the discovery of my mutant superpower(s).
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:07 AM on June 30, 2010


Horace Rumpole: "Does this mean that I'm not actually human, since I don't want to have any children?"

Check the tooltip on the pyramid graphic. Do you "desire to care ... [for] other close relatives"? If you do, then the pyramid applies to you.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:12 AM on June 30, 2010


The pyramid uses the word "parenting", not "reproducing"
OK, point taken.
which (absent legal barriers) is something that homosexuals regularly show both the ability and desire to do.
SOME homosexuals. And SOME heterosexuals. And SOME [insert term for sexualities that don't fit into current binary conceptions of sexuality here]. As haltingproblemsolved points out, this seems to suggest that not wanting to "parent" is an evolutionary malfunction. And what about the whole finding/retaining a mate thing? What about people who do not wish to be in purely monogamous relationships -- is that a misfire of their genetic imperative?

On another note, I'm sure a lot of people here are familiar with Emily Martin's critique of scientific narratives of human reproduction. A more recent article by Nancy Tuana, "Coming to Understand: Orgasm and the Epistemology of Ignorance," in the Agnotology (Stanford, 2008) includes, among other things, a very cogent critique of the problems with evolutionary psychology's explanation of human mating imperatives.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:12 AM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


echo target: "I had hope at one time that once the novelty of Google searches wore off, people would stop quoting the number of search results for some term as indicative of, well, anything at all. That hope gets fainter every day."

Valve is having a two-week long sale of games, and they're promoting it with a sort of "summer sports will kill you, the sun will give you cancer,stay inside you fat nerd" humorous approach. Yesterday's tagline was There were about 89,700,000 results for 'Sports Injuries' on a recent internet search. That is a lot. Clearly, sports are very dangerous and should be avoided.
posted by boo_radley at 11:13 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


filthy light thief: "Evolutionary psych : science :: The Da Vinci Code : literature

Man, I'm gonna love Evo. psych! I tried to get into science, but it was stodgy and dull. I loved The Da Vinci Code, because it was all *BAM* bad-ass professor and *WHAM* crazy albino monk and *POWIE* the muvvafunkin Illuminati!
"

Actually, the Illuminati don't figure in the Da Vinci Code, although I think they make an appearance in Angels and Demons. That doesn't change the horribleness (horribility?) of Dan Brown's so-called "work", of course.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:13 AM on June 30, 2010


Do you "desire to care ... [for] other close relatives"?

Not particularly.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:13 AM on June 30, 2010


Where does snark fall on this new hierarchy?
posted by greekphilosophy at 11:15 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


There seems to be a confusion here between evolutionary psychology and evolutionary POP psychology. Pop psychology is bad, adding evolution isn't going to make it good.

As for using the fundamental theory of biology to explain biological organs and behaviors, that seems like a pretty good idea.
posted by DU at 11:16 AM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


To be fair to Evolutionary Psychology, scholars (actually, economists) have conducted experiments that show some peculiarly regular though "irrational" aspects of human cognition. I'm thinking (off the top of my head) about the work of Gintis, Bowles, Fehr, etc. Since we can be pretty sure that these odd habits of thought didn't arise out of thin air, it makes some sense to try to figure out why they evolved.

Unless you think they didn't evolve, in which case you really shouldn't be thinking about evolutionary psychology at all.
posted by MarshallPoe at 11:16 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Miko, you're totally right, but I think that maybe the operative word and logic of the original model is "need," and how it is differentiated from "want". I agree with you that we don't think in these separate terms, and especially when our existence is not under immediate threat (like not having enough food or basic safety) we have no real *need* to separate the two. If you become very literal about this, as it seems the original model is, then hunger and thirst are our primary needs. I think that may also be why the model kind of falls apart or starts to get a little hard to accept right beyond that first tier.

Also, and I've only just read a couple other things about it right now, but he defines "deficiency needs" and "growth needs" as separate. That too becomes simplistic as soon as the primary needs are settled. To me the most problematic thing in the new model for me is not that it makes a joke on us or because I think I am special, but that I simply don't fit in it, nor does anyone I know. My "strongest and most fundamental impulse, which shapes our day-to-day desires on an unconscious level" is to survive long enough to pass our genes to the next generation? But I am not unconscious. Even my body cannot make me have a child, because I don't *want* one.

So I think maybe the biggest problem with this kind of biological developmentalism is how it seems to discount free will and emotional self-awareness, not to mention knowledge and power relations. From the linked article: Once those needs have been comfortably satisfied, Maslow believed we can start exploring others. In ascending order, he listed these higher-level needs as love, esteem/respect and, finally, self-actualization — finding our innate potential and fulfilling it.

So yeah, I'm exploring, and I can only explore in particular areas at a time while neglecting others. And I can ignore needs all together, especially if I don't think of needs and wants as disparate. The only use for the original model seems to be prescriptive, not descriptive. So I don't know what's the logic behind trying to "refine" it into something that makes even less sense.

So today we have a sturdier boat. But should self-actualization be thrown overboard? Kenrick argues it must, at least in the sense of thinking of it as a fundamental human motivation. He insists it is an admittedly impressive product of our basic drive to reproduce.

Well he can keep on insisting, I guess. Seems very dumb to me, but I'm not an evolutionary psychologist. Thankfully.
posted by mondaygreens at 11:16 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]



Check the tooltip on the pyramid graphic. Do you "desire to care ... [for] other close relatives"? If you do, then the pyramid applies to you.


If that's what the researchers mean, then why do they construct it as "parenting?"

(possible answer: if your research has something to do with sex and romance, you can get in magazines and quoted on the web 'n stuff!)
posted by Miko at 11:17 AM on June 30, 2010


I disagree with evolutionary psychology. I don't even think it deserves to have "evolution" in the name. We believe in evolution because it can be readily observed -- you combine a red rose with a white rose, you get three red roses and a white rose. You can do no such thing with evolutionary psychology.

However, it usually makes the feminists angry, so that means it's at least a little bit interesting.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:18 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dandelions are at the top of my hierarchy of weeds.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:18 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


In a fundamental re-think of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, I think I'll have another sandwich.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:21 AM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Since we can be pretty sure that these odd habits of thought didn't arise out of thin air, it makes some sense to try to figure out why they evolved.

The problem with this approach is that not everything resulting from evolution resulted for a purpose. There's quite a bit of randomness built in, and with humans you have learned behavior to an extreme extent. We didn't evolve to be able to read, for instance - but we can.

he defines "deficiency needs" and "growth needs" as separate. That too becomes simplistic as soon as the primary needs are settled.

The major critique is that it's too simplistic even before the primary needs are settled. Starving people sing, love, and pray. Humans seek to fulfill all their needs at once; they don't stop being self-actualized or loving just because, say, they're in a concentration camp and not getting enough water to drink.
posted by Miko at 11:21 AM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Looking at those two pyramids is the chart version of going out to dinner with a couple who just had their first baby.
posted by condour75 at 11:21 AM on June 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Afroblanco: "We believe in evolution because it can be readily observed -- you combine a red rose with a white rose, you get three red roses and a white rose. You can do no such thing with evolutionary psychology."

This is the exact same argument that creationists use to refute biological evolution - namely, that slight observable characteristics change between generations, but we have no "readily observable" evidence that human beings descended from apes. The fact that we can't see the missing link doesn't mean we throw out the theory of evolution altogether.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:25 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The problem with this approach is that not everything resulting from evolution resulted for a purpose.

I wasn't completely clear there. What I'm trying to point out is that evolution does not have goals - it just happens over time. We evolve only because we live long enough to reproduce. Many things that don't directly interfere with that process are carried forward through generations without having any utility whatsoever, without ever having solved any problem for any organism. W're capable of doing and being a lot of things that have no adaptive purpose. There's a fundamental error in thinking that everything about humans is a purposeful result of evolution with a utilitarian function without which we would have died out. And, in addition, the singular thing about humans and only a few other species is how little pre-programmed behavior we are born with. We are born to learn, and more of our behavior is learned than most other species - hence, it's far more variable culturally and over time.
posted by Miko at 11:26 AM on June 30, 2010


Quite a bit of misunderstanding of the original HoN in this thread, even if it was a bit simplistic.

But in any case, I have the inside track on its next iteration which has eminent intuitive appeal: first you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the women...
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:27 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is the exact same argument that creationists use to refute biological evolution - namely, that slight observable characteristics change between generations, but we have no "readily observable" evidence that human beings descended from apes.

No. You are twisting my words.

The mechanism by which evolution works can be readily observed. It is a physical process that can be reproduced in a laboratory. Furthermore, and most importantly, you can use it to predict things.

You can do no such thing with evolutionary psychology.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:28 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is the exact same argument that creationists use to refute biological evolution

No, it's not.

we have no "readily observable" evidence that human beings descended from apes

Yes, we do. Do you mean that we haven't turned apes into humans in the lab? Being able to that, aside from requiring a super long experimental duration of 10 million years or so, is not the same thing as "observable evidence."
posted by Miko at 11:28 AM on June 30, 2010


Durn Bronzefist, so address the misunderstandings?
posted by mondaygreens at 11:30 AM on June 30, 2010


Oh. I hate this.
posted by millipede at 11:33 AM on June 30, 2010


Science does not work that way. Science (and yes, psychology is a science) only cares about explanatory power.

No. This is incorrect. Science most certainly "cares" about predictive power as well.

Evolutionary psychology is what you study when you are just bowled right the fuck over by the beauty of change over time, but aren't quite smart enough to study genetics.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:39 AM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, for example, Maslow said nothing about an inability to make progress at higher stages ("even people who are starving and oppressed do develop socially and spiritually"), nor the end of having to meet needs at the lower levels while attending to ones higher up ("we'll always need shelter, food, etc regardless of what we're doing").

But "quite a bit" might have been overselling it, since most of this thread has gone the EvoPsych route, about which I have little interest.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:39 AM on June 30, 2010


biological imperative to find a mate and reproduce

Being a woman who doesn't want kids who has a mate who doesn't feel stronly about having or not having kids, I'm steering us to planning on getting a beach house, preferably in Hawaii.
posted by anniecat at 11:40 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, evidence of a biological imperative in other species doesn't matter in relation to human beings?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:40 AM on June 30, 2010


Or, maybe opponents are reluctant to embrace evolutionary psychology because it makes a lot of people feel bad about themselves.
posted by LordSludge at 11:41 AM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, for example, Maslow said nothing about an inability to make progress at higher stages

No, but what he said was the stage you're in would become the primary driving force for how you behave. That's not the same as an "inability," but it implies that it's unlikely people will display behaviors from other stages while focused on a lower stage. We just know that's not true - people routinely ignore behaviors that would increase their personal safety in the pursuit of adventures that might enhance their progress toward "self-actualization," like mountain climbing, for instance.
posted by Miko at 11:43 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


it implies humans deal with their core needs in succession and can only develop in the higher brackets once lower needs are taken care of?

1) Step out from under the piano dropping from above you. 2) Clear your blocked airway. 3) Have a glass of water. 4) Write a sonata.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:45 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, evidence of a biological imperative in other species doesn't matter in relation to human beings?

What do you mean by "biological imperative?" Do you mean a drive to reproduce sexually? It doesn't have to occur in all individuals in order for the species to survive - just enough individuals to ensure a next generation that is, hopefully, genetically diverse.

But nobody was arguing that there was no drive to reproduce, anyway - just that even if there is a biological driver, we can override it through choosing which behaviors to engage in.
posted by Miko at 11:45 AM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Though I'll say this: Back when I was in college, probably through graduate school, I had this immature, inexperienced desire/fantasy to be swept away into a brownstone decorated with Pottery Barn where my income would always rise and rise and I would get everything I wanted because I went to a fancy college. But that I blame on the New York Times Wedding Section and real estate section, and general immaturity.
posted by anniecat at 11:47 AM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


1) Step out from under the piano dropping from above you. 2) Clear your blocked airway. 3) Have a glass of water. 4) Write a sonata.

Eat the strawberry!
posted by Miko at 11:47 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Science does not work that way. Science (and yes, psychology is a science) only cares about explanatory power.

No. This is incorrect. Science most certainly "cares" about predictive power as well.


You're right- that was poorly worded on my part. I sometimes use the words "explain" and "predict" as essentially equivalent (in a statistical sense), though there are meanings for them that are quite different and whose difference is important in discussing evo psych.
posted by Jpfed at 11:48 AM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Actually, I'd be much more in tune with this update if he'd just used a different term than parenting: teaching e.g. passing on your knowledge.

That's the real imperative that makes our society persist from generation to generation, and is why humans are so successful. You can encapsulate the important aspects of parenting within the realm of "teaching" without getting any nasty irrelevant biological goo all over yourself. And teaching can continue for decades, and in fact does in all societies in the form of elders.

So, basically, get rid of the kids, and I'm in.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:50 AM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I notice a good deal of denial in these comments.
posted by Postroad at 11:51 AM on June 30, 2010


I'm gald Metafilter is always here to let me know that billons of years of evolutionary history and mountains of research into the biological basis of social interaction are meaningless regarding humans because they don't like that Pinker guy.
posted by spaltavian at 11:54 AM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Denial of....? Please elaborate, unless that's just a way to try to make people feel defensive.
posted by Miko at 11:55 AM on June 30, 2010


I'm not sure your example provides a counterpoint to the theory, Miko. If you've moved on to "self-actualization", you are, according to the theory, not at the stage where you are primarily motivated by "safety needs". On the contrary, you seem to be suggesting that doing anything that puts you in danger reverts you to the "safety needs" level. It was never postulated that way. This is not evolutionary fitness, where factors affecting survival to reproduction automatically get factored in. Maybe you've never wanted for shelter. Your attentions may be focused elsewhere, despite self-imposed dangers.

A better counterexample would be, I think, someone who, through no choice of their own, struggles daily to meet physiological or safety needs, but whose focus is entirely on some other level. The Sadhu, perhaps? Except this, too, may simply be a case of different standards for what it means to satisfy basic needs.

Frankly, it's all a bit trite, and resistant to counterexample because of it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:56 AM on June 30, 2010


...biological imperative to find a mate and reproduce...

As has been pointed out before, the drive in most people isn't to reproduce; it's to screw. Parenthood is just the unfortunate consequence in some cases.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:00 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, okay, I see the problem there. I also think it's silly to dice Maslow too finely, because the theory isn't that well developed in the first place.

A better counterexample would be, I think, someone who, through no choice of their own, struggles daily to meet physiological or safety needs, but whose focus is entirely on some other level.

Catholic Workers, maybe?
posted by Miko at 12:00 PM on June 30, 2010


Oh, right, no choice of their own. Okay...but then it kind of goes back to things like the audio I heard from Haiti of hungry and homeless people singing after the earthquake, or the near-universality of art making even among poor and hungry people worldwide.
posted by Miko at 12:01 PM on June 30, 2010


But nobody was arguing that there was no drive to reproduce, anyway - just that even if there is a biological driver, we can override it through choosing which behaviors to engage in.

We generally don't, because when people say the "drive to reproduce", they're often actually talking about the "drive to the act that causes reproduction". I don't want kids, but I haven't "overcome" anything, my partner and I have just been able to fake out nature with 99% certainty if used correctly.
posted by spaltavian at 12:07 PM on June 30, 2010


Yep yep. I'd argue that people in the most desperate straits as far as basic survival go are often the ones to fully adopt a higher-level view. One might effectively abandon the fight for certain basic needs in favour of things within his or her grasp -- like spiritual fulfillment.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:07 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Question: If you don't like the general premise of evolutionary psychology (that the way we think/feel/react evolved at least in part due to selective pressures and was, at least when it evolved, adaptive), then how do you explain the way we think/feel/react?

More simply, if not natural selection (et al.), then what?
posted by MarshallPoe at 12:09 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I haven't "overcome" anything, my partner and I have just been able to fake out nature with 99% certainty if used correctly.

You're right that "override" was a bad choice of words. What I'm saying is that you've used reason and changed your behaviors to drastically reduce the likelihood that the sex drive, which leads in nature to reproduction, will not lead to reproduction in your case. It's not that you've defeated the drive itself, but that you've found a way to decouple mating and becoming a parent, using intellect and learned behavior and the results of scientific inquiry.

More simply, if not natural selection (et al.), then what?

Natural selection and evolutionary psychology are not synonymous. Many of our behaviors result from happenstance - chance. Many result from learned behavior. Many are complex interactions between the human body and its social and physical environment, and can create varied effects.
posted by Miko at 12:19 PM on June 30, 2010


This particular rejiggering of Maslow's heirarchy is dumb. Maslow's heirarchy always struck me as some incredibly obvious facts combined with other pieces that are asserted rather than argued. Yes our physiological needs come first. If they aren't met there ceases to be other needs. After that it is a mismatch of greater and lesser desires that don't follow any simple geometric structure. But it's something that people latch onto because it is easy to understand. And a lot of it sounds pretty. I'll be free from prejudice after this meal.

Evolutionary Psychology is the less dumb part of it's experiment. Evolutionary physiology suffers from a lot of the same problems as evolutionary psychology in terms of explanatory power and predictive power. We still use it and find it valuable because it provides a logical framework of causes and effects that help us understand why things are the way they are. I gurantee you if human beings developed in enviroments with easier access to calories our appetites would different from how they are now and overeating would be less of a problem. I will never be able to create such an experiment, but that doesn't make it true.

Yes evolutionary does reveal that certain bad things humans do are because of the conditions that humans evolved under. It does not follow that makes these bad things ok. A lot of evolutionary psychology is bad science that's because a lot of psychology is bad science and a lot of science is bad science.
posted by I Foody at 12:19 PM on June 30, 2010


This makes a permanent biological underclass of humans that are sterile or infertile.

Fuck that.
posted by Back to you, Jim. at 12:20 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


We generally don't, because when people say the "drive to reproduce", they're often actually talking about the "drive to the act that causes reproduction". I don't want kids, but I haven't "overcome" anything, my partner and I have just been able to fake out nature with 99% certainty if used correctly.

Do asexuals exist in your world?
posted by kmz at 12:21 PM on June 30, 2010


Question: If you don't like the general premise of evolutionary psychology (that the way we think/feel/react evolved at least in part due to selective pressures and was, at least when it evolved, adaptive), then how do you explain the way we think/feel/react?

You know, I'm really sick of this line of thinking. Not everything happens for a reason. Some traits exist simply because they aren't harmful and don't really effect the organism's chances of survival. For example, see the wide variation in appearance and external structure of human genitalia. Some traits are the result of (seemingly-unrelated) evolutionary tradeoffs. For example, the gene that causes sickle-cell anemia also protects you from malaria. There's no "advantage" to being predisposed to sickle-cell, but it's a side-effect of something that actually is an advantage.

I think evolutionary psych adherents like to discount this, because they can't stand to think of themselves as walking side-effects. They like everything to "make sense." And that's really all ev psych is, a theory that people like because it confirms their biases and "sounds like it makes sense." Same reason people liked social darwinism back in the day. However, neither theory had anything to do with any actual science, outside of "sounding scientific."
posted by Afroblanco at 12:22 PM on June 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


There is no need to reproduce. There is a need to orgasm.

People don't drink for the hangover -- they drink to be drunk.
posted by flarbuse at 12:22 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


There seems to be a confusion here between evolutionary psychology and evolutionary POP psychology. Pop psychology is bad, adding evolution isn't going to make it good.

As for using the fundamental theory of biology to explain biological organs and behaviors, that seems like a pretty good idea. There seems to be a confusion here between evolutionary psychology and evolutionary POP psychology. Pop psychology is bad, adding evolution isn't going to make it good.

As for using the fundamental theory of biology to explain biological organs and behaviors, that seems like a pretty good idea.
The problem is that it's not at all clear that psychology in general is all that rigorous. There's lots of good science in there, but there's also a lot of academic stuff that's just as bad. And Evo psych always seems more like what you would consider 'pop' psychology, even if it's published in "peer reviewed" journals.

With Evo Psych even 'academic' stuff is mostly whack, as far as I know. It's obvious that human psychology 'evolved' in some way, but it's not really possible to imagine what life would have been like for 'early humans' and then extrapolate that to make predictions, because most of the time it involves doing things backwords. Looking at how things are and then imagining how they got to be that way. So there's no predictive power.
This is the exact same argument that creationists use to refute biological evolution - namely, that slight observable characteristics change between generations, but we have no "readily observable" evidence that human beings descended from apes. The fact that we can't see the missing link doesn't mean we throw out the theory of evolution altogether.
Except there is plenty of evidence that humans and apes share a common ancestor, For example you can compare genomes and see what's different on non-coding DNA, which tells you how long ago the branches split. And that coincides directly with the fossil record. There is nothing like that you can do with Evo Psych. You can't figure out which "genes" code for "liking babies" in order to see when things separated or how much evolutionary pressure there is. And human personality is massively dependent on the environment.
posted by delmoi at 12:23 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Health, love, finance, career, creativity. Pick any three.
posted by machaus at 12:29 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you just read Metafilter and publications like the New York Times, you'd think that evolutionary psychology is on its way out. In fact, EP has been completely absorbed by psychologists and evolutionary explanations of psychological phenomena are everywhere. And yes, they're predictive. Or perhaps you don't think that there is an evolutionary story behind why we find fatty foods and sugary foods tasty.

I gave an example of a good use of EP, and a typical use, in a previous comment:

Psychology is replete with predictions that are made on the basis of evolutionary explanations. For instance, early researchers in animal number cognition noticed that animals (birds, rats, primates, etc.) had some concept of number, but were subject to making some dramatic mistakes in gauging the difference in magnitude of two groupings. The systematic mistakes these animals made led researchers to posit the existence of an "accumulator" mechanism that is for processing small magnitude calculations. Their arithmetic skills are lumpy and approximate and only work for small numbers, but those approximate calculations served their purposes, and the mechanism was fast. It was predicted that although humans have a more robust comprehension of mathematics, we have an accumulator and it influences our arithmetical abilities. Here's Stanislas Dehaene:

"Evolution is a conservative mechanism [...] if our closest cousins, the chimpanzees, possess some competence for arithmetic, and if species as different as rats, pigeons, and dolphins are not devoid of numerical abilities, it is likely that we Homo Sapiens have received a similar heritage. Our brains, like the rat's, are likely to come equipped with an accumulator [...] In the next chapters, we will scrutinize human mathematical abilities, looking for vestiges of the animal mode of apprehending numbers."

As it turns out, he finds a lot of the evidence that he predicted. We are subject to a lot of the same mistakes that animals make. It looks like we use an accumulator for fast calculations.

This is evolutionary psychology. It's good stuff, and it's not at all atypical of what is done elsewhere in psychology. I think some people might not want to call it EP because it sounds reasonable, but there's no difference in principle between saying that we have evolved mechanisms that influence our calculation and that we have evolved mechanisms that influence our procreation... or our kinship preferences, or mate selection, or moral attitudes, or what have you.

posted by painquale at 12:31 PM on June 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Back to you, Jim.: "This makes a permanent biological underclass of humans that are sterile or infertile. "

Again, no it doesn't. The distinction between the word "parenting" and "reproduction" is of the utmost importance here. The Kenrick hierarchy isn't really about sex at all: its about a series of emotional needs culminating in the desire to care for a family once those needs have been met. Using his definition of "parenting", not only are adopted children treated on the exact same level as biological descendants, but it doesn't seem that you have to strictly have children where you have other family members to care for.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:32 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


delmoi: "And that coincides directly with the fossil record. There is nothing like that you can do with Evo Psych. You can't figure out which "genes" code for "liking babies" in order to see when things separated or how much evolutionary pressure there is."

Isn't the notion that parents who cared for their children were much less likely to have those children get killed by a predator prior to their reproductive age to a certain extent intuitive?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:34 PM on June 30, 2010


Did they fix the part where there was no actual science?
posted by Eideteker at 12:36 PM on June 30, 2010


I notice a good deal of denial in these comments.

No you don't.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:38 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Back in the day, being in denial was a good way to get ahead in the social order, so nowadays we're always in denial.
posted by kmz at 12:45 PM on June 30, 2010


sailing on down that river in egypt you mean

btw,

Health, love, finance, career, creativity. Pick any three.


If I have creativity love and health, i am inspired to do work that I love which in turn will attract money
posted by infini at 12:51 PM on June 30, 2010


"It desacralizes, it reduces, it animalizes."

Thus we have the fetishism of desecration, reductionism and savagery, with no recognition of the yearning for the sacred, the eternal, and the beauty and dignity of nature.
posted by No Robots at 1:01 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like Maslow's hierarchy of needs. I always have. It makes sense to me.

What I don't like is seeing it twisted to support some pro-nuclear family, anti-homosexual, anti-single parent, anti-non-reproducing couple, anti-choice, or anti-single man/woman agenda. This, in effect, does that for me. So it says "parenting" and not "reproducing". If it wanted to say teaching, it would. Word choice on a model like this is deliberate.

Finally, and maybe this had been addressed, I don't understand why finding a mate, retaining that mate, and "parenting" don't just fall into self-actualization?
posted by fyrebelley at 1:15 PM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


There's a lot of bad science, and stuff that's not even science out there, and whether it's called evolutionary psych or something else isn't the best indicator of its quality. There's nothing inherently antithetical to the scientific method in evo psych, if we understand that term to mean an interpretive framework that uses what we already do know, that is, assumptions that are testable, have been studied, and appear to be robust, about evolutionary processes to form hypotheses which are tested as rigorously as those in any other clinical psychological sub-discipline. Offering just-so-story explanations without doing research, which is sometimes referred to as evo psych, is not science at all, it's more properly a sort of hermeneutics, and a variety that does a disservice to real psychology by using its name.

On the other hand, one might argue against evo psych by noting that basing an interpretive framework upon a phenomenon which is recognized but far from understood or fully explicated (as evolution is) might not yield reliable results. In fact, considering how little we really understand about how life works (nobody really knows how the brain works on a mechanistic level, for example), it seems even more questionable.
posted by clockzero at 1:21 PM on June 30, 2010


kmz: Do asexuals exist in your world?

Does reading carefully exist in yours?

We generally don't, because when people say the "drive to reproduce", they're often actually talking about the "drive to the act that causes reproduction". I don't want kids, but I haven't "overcome" anything, my partner and I have just been able to fake out nature with 99% certainty if used correctly.

I never once said this applies to everyone, I never once said all people have the drive and the example I used was about me personally. I never ever said asexuals don't exist, and nothing in my statement could possibly be read as to deny their existence or worth. I did consider briefly, however, in putting the painfully obvious disclaimer that my statements obviously don't apply to asexuals even though not a single thing I said would discount their existence. I reconsidered, though, certain that no one would be that ridiculous as to go looking for such an irrelevant, off-the-mark gotcha.
posted by spaltavian at 1:25 PM on June 30, 2010


Once again, evolutionary theorists fail to differentiate between the hard-wired goals of our old-brain that are not a part of our "self" but sub-personal macromolecules, and the goals of our new brain which *are* our self.
posted by tybeet at 1:38 PM on June 30, 2010


To be fair to Evolutionary Psychology, scholars (actually, economists) have conducted experiments that show some peculiarly regular though "irrational" aspects of human cognition. I'm thinking (off the top of my head) about the work of Gintis, Bowles, Fehr, etc. Since we can be pretty sure that these odd habits of thought didn't arise out of thin air, it makes some sense to try to figure out why they evolved.

That is a good statement of the whole problem with this outlook: observed human behaviour must either fit theoretical economic models of rational maximising, or derive directly from biology. The most obvious solution, that human social behaviour is socially determined, doesn't even enter into the range of possibilities.
posted by stammer at 1:47 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Seems odd to me to differentiate between sex drive and reproductive drive. Higher mammals have obviously worked out strategies for separating the short-term payoff from that drive from its less immediately satisfying outcomes. But the drive is the same. Doesn't mean that love and lust aren't real.
posted by tigrefacile at 1:55 PM on June 30, 2010


Lesbians and gay men have no trouble differentiating between sex drive and reproductive drive. Love and lust do not require babymaking!
posted by Carol Anne at 2:01 PM on June 30, 2010


There is no need to reproduce. There is a need to orgasm.

Well yeah, but for how many more generations? Effective birth control only showed up a little while ago. Who knows what will give humans of the 25th century orgasms! Getting a good discount at the artificial womb store or something.
posted by XMLicious at 2:10 PM on June 30, 2010


Parenting is the exact opposite of self-actualization. It is the complete subordination of the self to the species drive.
posted by No Robots at 2:25 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Question: If you don't like the general premise of evolutionary psychology (that the way we think/feel/react evolved at least in part due to selective pressures and was, at least when it evolved, adaptive), then how do you explain the way we think/feel/react?

*sigh* Here I have to go again.

General psychology admits that the way we think/feel/react evolved due to selective pressures. Heck, even B. F. Skinner admitted that up front. (I really should have saved a copy of the marvelous takedown of The Blank Slate which pointed out how Pinker played fast and loose with his strawmen.) Developmental, behavioral, and cognitive psychology already treat the human mind as an evolved organ as does neuropsychology.

The problem is evolutionary biology is not storytelling, it's a theorem based on comparative studies of clades, quantitative genetics, or more recently, molecular biology.

So evolutionary psychology has two big problems on its hands. First, we can't really say much about the evolutionary timeline of human behavior because much of it is isolated within one clade with between 3-8 surviving species and ambiguous finds from maybe two-dozen species if we include fossil hominids. Wilson is on a bit firmer ground in looking at the evolution of social behavior in ants because his chosen clades have hundreds of members. But I don't see how anyone can seriously make a claim that something evolved in the paleolithic given a lack of related clades and very scant behavioral evidence from early humans.

On the quantitative genetics end, you can't even talk about what kinds of adaptive pressures might apply to a given behavior until you can create a good mathematical model of how much that behavior is influenced by genetics. And so you see a lot of claims about things like rape that don't really address how a proclivity to rape is inherited, to what degree, what kinds of inheritance are involved, and is rape a trait distinct from general aggression. Then, there's a lot of handwavium fudging on the math looking at chances of conception regarding rape vs. the odds that the rapist will get pounded to death in revenge.

Since we can't quantify heredity for most behaviors (not without many generations of experiments we'd find to be cruel and unethical) we also are limited in our ability to use molecular biology to look at behavioral traits. But even there you run into problems because molecular clocks for evolution are possibly unreliable for single genes.

Add to this, the problem of evolutionary psychologists making rather sweeping claims that such-and-such is evolved around controversial issues of gender dimorphism and sexual behavior while ignoring that there are significant methodological problems in quantifying those behaviors.

We can talk about the anatomy and genetics of human behavior without needing to know whether it first appeared 50,000, 2 million, or 6 million years ago, and under what conditions. And we can even say, "yep the gambler's fallacy likely evolved" without inventing just so stories about the OBE.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:38 PM on June 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


I don't know about that, No Robots. One could make an argument that parenting is a selfish drive to achieve immortality by proxy, or a way to get cheap labor, or a way to have something that will just love me for who I am without any strings attached.

Plus, hey, many people really like being parents. Raising children is the best kind of self actualization for some people. What more demanding project could one undertake than raising a child well?
posted by Mister_A at 2:47 PM on June 30, 2010


99.9999% of what I learned in the dozens of Management classes they made me take in college was either completely obvious or absolute horseshit.

I think Maslow's heirarchy of needs appeared on page 3 of every single one of those Management class textbooks I had to buy because it combines those two contingencies so well.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:52 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Parenting is the exact opposite of self-actualization. It is the complete subordination of the self to the species drive.

It feels that way some times, particularly if you are oversensitive to being viewed by others purely in the context of your kids. But I'm sure plenty of people, mothers in particular perhaps, blossom into themselves as parents. Whether or not this transformation is initiated by biological imperatives it still counts as self-actualization, I would humbly suggest.
posted by tigrefacile at 2:53 PM on June 30, 2010


One could make an argument that parenting is a selfish drive to achieve immortality by proxy, or a way to get cheap labor, or a way to have something that will just love me for who I am without any strings attached.

Yes, that is how some parents try to redeem their investment. But they forget that it is not the parent that is reproduced, but the species. And any attempt to extract labor or love from a child as repayment for their birth is revolting. The child belongs to the species, not to the parent.

What more demanding project could one undertake than raising a child well?

Indeed. Parenting can have the good effect of teaching us to scale back our egoism.
posted by No Robots at 2:57 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


fyrebelley: “I like Maslow's hierarchy of needs. I always have. It makes sense to me... and maybe this had been addressed, I don't understand why finding a mate, retaining that mate, and "parenting" don't just fall into self-actualization?”

I think evolutionary psychology (which in practice is actually neither) is mostly bunkum, but this right here is why I also have a feeling that Maslow's hierarchy, while it's somewhat compelling, is ultimately very limiting. As you say, mating, retaining a mate, and "parenting" fall into 'self-actualization' - because everything falls into 'self-actualization.' It's a catch-all, but ultimately Maslow didn't define it very well, and frankly even he himself seems to have been vague on the whole thing. The things which he fits into this category – morality and spontaneity, for example – seem to have some very serious differences, and in the end it's hard to see how they actually fit into a hierarchy at all aside from the fact that they seem to a lot of us to represent a life pursuit.

Maslow's ideas grew out of his work with the Esalen people and the human potential movement, which was a big deal in the 1970s. To be honest, it seems to me that we learned a lot of lessons in the 1970s and 1980s which demonstrate problems and limitations of Maslow's pyramid. I would probably be willing to argue that the emptiness and ennui of the 1980s which Bret Easton Ellis made so much of pointing out was in large part an outgrowth of the human potential movement, of which Maslow was at least an aspect.

So there are definitely some questions, even if you think that my reading of it is off; Maslow's hierarchy may seem intuitive and compelling, but it didn't arise in a vacuum, and it and its antecedents have had a profound impact on our society.

[A very good treatment of this whole scene can be found in the excellent documentary about psychology in the 20th century by Adam Curtis entitled The Century of the Self, particularly in part three, which is called "There Is A Policeman Inside All Our Heads And He Must Be Destroyed." I can't recommend it highly enough; it's endlessly fascinating, and it's one of the few documentaries I've seen that actually changed my mind about many things and started me thinking in entirely new directions.]
posted by koeselitz at 3:00 PM on June 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


But I'm sure plenty of people, mothers in particular perhaps, blossom into themselves as parents.

It is true that women have a far more intimate and direct stake in parenthood than do men, but that means that their experience of self-denial is also all that much more intimate and direct.
posted by No Robots at 3:05 PM on June 30, 2010


Yeah, but self-denial can be a tool of self-actualisation. This is what quarantine and Cistercian practice are about. Certain of us can find ourselves through sacrifice.

Not me, obviously. I like to balance parental responsibilities with the occasional cheeky half after work. I'm sure the species will forgive me.
posted by tigrefacile at 3:15 PM on June 30, 2010


This pyramid taught me a lot. I was just going to go around and do my usual stuff, but now I know better. I didn't even know I wanted to do these things they're talking about, but now that it's scientifically proven to me that I do want them, I guess I had better get cracking.

But only because the science is good! If they can't rigorously prove to my satisfaction that I want this stuff, then forget it, I don't think I want it.
posted by fleacircus at 3:15 PM on June 30, 2010


Dandelions are at the top of my hierarchy of weeds.

You might be smoking them wrong. Which is funny. If you are high. On dandelions.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:16 PM on June 30, 2010


To be fair to Evolutionary Psychology, scholars (actually, economists) have conducted experiments that show some peculiarly regular though "irrational" aspects of human cognition. I'm thinking (off the top of my head) about the work of Gintis, Bowles, Fehr, etc. Since we can be pretty sure that these odd habits of thought didn't arise out of thin air, it makes some sense to try to figure out why they evolved.

That is a good statement of the whole problem with this outlook: observed human behaviour must either fit theoretical economic models of rational maximising, or derive directly from biology. The most obvious solution, that human social behaviour is socially determined, doesn't even enter into the range of possibilities.


See Social Neuroeconomics (Fehr is one of its leading proponents).
posted by solipsophistocracy at 3:24 PM on June 30, 2010


Yeah, but self-denial can be a tool of self-actualisation.

Sure. But in this case, we are tricked into it by the species. We are led to believe that we do for love what in fact we are driven to by our bodily nature.

I'm sure the species will forgive me.

The species does not punish or reward: it simply seeks its own continuance.
posted by No Robots at 3:27 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The species does not punish or reward: it simply seeks its own continuance.

"Species" is an artificial taxonomic classification. It doesn't really seek anything, collectively.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 3:32 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


A zygote is just a gamete's way of making more gametes.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:34 PM on June 30, 2010


"Species" is an artificial taxonomic classification. It doesn't really seek anything, collectively.

The species is a community, just as is your own individual body. And just as all the cells of your body are moved about as collectivity, so are the activities of the individual members of the species determined by their nature as a collectivity.
posted by No Robots at 3:38 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Where does Maslow place the need for favorites?
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:30 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have the 5th edition of Gluckman's Psychology textbook. I was surprised to find Maslow is in there. (Jung, for example, is not.) Maslow's pyramid is on p. 614. The third level up is Belonging and Love Needs, Affiliation, Acceptance, Belongingness. So raising children appears to me on Maslow's pyramid, six levels down from the top.

As for Evolutionary Psychology, I have something to contribute there as well. My understanding is one of the gold standards of Evolutionary Psychology is a collection of papers edited by Jerome Barkow, Leda Cosmides, and John Tooby, The Adapted Mind from which I cherry-picked the following item for another discussion the other day. It is a paper The Evolution of Sexual Attraction: Evaluative Mechanisms in Women by Bruce Ellis:

p. 273 "The primary channel for a woman to move upward in society is to marry upward in socioeconomic status."

This was published in 1992 by the Oxford University Press. It sounds more like 1962 if you ask me.
posted by bukvich at 4:34 PM on June 30, 2010


"Species" is an artificial taxonomic classification. It doesn't really seek anything, collectively.

That's a bit pedantic. Your genes certainly act to make you reproduce by wiring your brain in such a way, and your genes are derived from your species. Therefore, by the principle of transitivity (and/or a generous reading of No Robots) your species is seeking to make you reproduce.
posted by tybeet at 4:57 PM on June 30, 2010


Your genes aren't derived from your species. As we learn more about genetics, an emergent contemporary argument that your species is derived from your genes holds water, but it can't be the other way around.

Evolution is change over time, right? Evolution by means of natural selection is when that change is driven by fitness in the environment. Once an organism's genetic makeup is sufficiently distinct from that of another organism, it is said to belong to a different species. That doesn't mean that the new species somehow "derives" its own genetic makeup.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 5:31 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


One thing about Maslow's hierarchy of needs that comes across as ridiculous is placing sex as a basic need alongside food and shelter. I know it was invented in the 1960s, when liberation from sexual repression was in the air, but deprivation of sex doesn't threaten one's life in the way that starvation or exposure to the elements does.

Having said that, Kenrick's revision looks too brutally reductionistic. Evolutionary psychology in general is useful as an explanatory tool, but as an ideology it's much like the Friedmanite idea of the "free market"; a basic and useful idea stretched beyond the limits of where it is applicable.
posted by acb at 5:46 PM on June 30, 2010


Afrobalanco: You know, I'm really sick of this line of thinking.

Of course you are. That line of thinking held no mating advantage during the Pleistocene epoch.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:05 PM on June 30, 2010


One thing about Maslow's hierarchy of needs that comes across as ridiculous is placing sex as a basic need alongside food and shelter. I know it was invented in the 1960s, when liberation from sexual repression was in the air, but deprivation of sex doesn't threaten one's life in the way that starvation or exposure to the elements does.

Agreed. I guess you could make an evolutionary psychey argument (if evo psych can ever really be called an argument) that deprivation of sex threatens the species, but my thoughts on that matter are definitely not in line with such an approach for a second.

The thing that I always thought was cool about Maslow's hierarchy was that it posited legitimate needs for self-conscious evaluation and living up to abstract standards the emerge from such consideration. This new hierarchy takes away everything cool about Maslow's ideas and replaces it with some trite-ass 'evolutionary' argument. The highest need is for parenting? That's fucking ridiculous. Clearly, lots of people don't have that need at all.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 6:38 PM on June 30, 2010


This new hierarchy takes away everything cool about Maslow's ideas and replaces it with some trite-ass 'evolutionary' argument. The highest need is for parenting? That's fucking ridiculous. Clearly, lots of people don't have that need at all.

See, this is what I was talking about (and why I largely stayed out of the thread). I agree with you 100% that inserting evo psych into this largely spoils what appeal the hierarchy had in the first place, but saying "Clearly, lots of people don't have that need at all" is entirely consistent with the way the original thing was framed. If you're not at that level, you don't have that focus. Now, this starts going pear-shaped when you bring things like parenting into it, because while everyone can agree that something like "self-actualization" is both a good thing and an advanced state of awareness/living, to posit parenting at some high state of being is to effectively state that if you don't have that desire, you're insufficiently advanced in your development. That's bullshit, but what it is not is inconsistent with the basic idea of how the hierarchy was supposed to work.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:46 PM on June 30, 2010


I like Evolution. I like Psychology. But this article is bullshit.
posted by ovvl at 9:06 PM on June 30, 2010


There's something called the Mirror Fallacy. It's the assumption that, what you really and deeply want, is in fact the normal state of affairs that everyone really and deeply wants.

I think this article really falls for that. Yes, the parental drive described maps pretty well to the sensation of the passage of life for a parent. But is this a universal?

There are a remarkable number of people for who the pyramid has CEO at the top. Or General. Or President. Or God.

I've got no truck with parents or parenting, and I happen to love kids. But there are other life paths. One actual strength of Maslow is that at least his hierarchy doesn't choose sides.
posted by effugas at 11:12 PM on June 30, 2010


my partner and I have just been able to fake out nature with 99% certainty if used correctly.

Nature doesn't really pay attention to you (or to any of us as individuals).
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:37 PM on June 30, 2010


It is true that women have a far more intimate and direct stake in parenthood than do men, but that means that their experience of self-denial is also all that much more intimate and direct.

Women only have this "more intimate" connection if they are birth parents.
posted by Miko at 6:14 AM on July 1, 2010


Women only have this "more intimate" connection if they are birth parents.

Whether a woman bears children of her own or not, her body is far more oriented toward parenthood than that of any man.
posted by No Robots at 7:49 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Miko: Also, hasn't Maslow's theory, despite being an influential contribution at its time, generally been rejected as too simplistic in that it implies humans deal with their core needs in succession and can only develop in the higher brackets once lower needs are taken care of?

It's been criticised for that, but he never actually said that. The lower needs don't need to be completely fulfilled before one can start focusing on higher needs - though he did say that you would focus more on lower needs. [Sorry, no cite, but I read a fair bit about Maslow when studying psych]
posted by Infinite Jest at 7:53 AM on July 1, 2010


Once an organism's genetic makeup is sufficiently distinct from that of another organism, it is said to belong to a different species.

I view the species, or more properly the group of inter-related species we call the genus, as the fundamental unit of biology. Each genus is whole and complete within itself, arising independently from protoplasm, and generating only exemplars of itself, with variations limited to its own powers. The proposition that one genus can produce another out of itself is wholly untenable and leads only to a disastrous misconception of biology.
posted by No Robots at 7:55 AM on July 1, 2010


Saxon Kane my partner and I have just been able to fake out nature with 99% certainty if used correctly.

Nature doesn't really pay attention to you (or to any of us as individuals).


No shit. Want to point out where I implied anything of the sort?
posted by spaltavian at 8:06 AM on July 1, 2010


There realy not that dsifferent. Beacuse in Maslow's day, self actualization, like a good suit, helped get you laid.
posted by rtimmel at 9:22 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whether a woman bears children of her own or not, her body is far more oriented toward parenthood than that of any man.

Oh please.
posted by Miko at 12:44 PM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh please.

What do you mean? Are not women's bodies differentiated from those of men primarily by their adaptation for gestation and lactation?
posted by No Robots at 5:08 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]




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