As mentioned in my book, Maslow (one of the three modern thinkers referenced) has been criticized for a lack of rigorous scientific testing of his Hierarchy of Needs theory. He himself has admitted to a less quantitative and more qualitative approach in constructing his theory.
“Anyone who has ever completed a psychology class has heard of Abraham Maslow and his theory of needs,” said University of Illinois professor emeritus of psychology Ed Diener, who led the study. “But the nagging question has always been: Where is the proof? Students learn the theory, but scientific research backing this theory is rarely mentioned.”
The proof was finally revealed in 2011. In an exhaustive study, researchers at the University of Illinois put Maslow’s ideas to the test with data from 123 countries representing every major region of the world.
“Our findings suggest that Maslow’s theory is largely correct. In cultures all over the world the fulfillment of his proposed needs correlates with happiness,” Diener said. “However, an important departure from Maslow’s theory is that we found that a person can report having good social relationships and self-actualization even if their basic needs and safety needs are not completely fulfilled.”
The above statement regarding achieving happiness without the lower needs being met applies to those from poor countries. Their expectations of having one’s basic needs for food, water, shelter, as well as the safety needs of protection from criminals and war, are not completely satisfied as they would be in more advanced countries. In other words, excluding the basic needs being satisfied, the findings of the research indicate that the order of needs satisfaction basically follows Maslow’s theory.
The research also indicated that people are more likely to achieve happiness when others in their society also have their needs fulfilled. This final point supports one of the premises of my book that the happiness of the individual leads to the flourishing of society. These findings seem to support the work of Joseph Campbell regarding the stages of the hero, also discussed in my book.
The complete research article can be found by Clicking Here.