Exploring Maslow’s Hierarchy of Special Needs

Sociologists have recently discovered that around the same time he created his groundbreaking Hierarchy of Needs, Abraham Maslow also conceptualized the more obscure Hierarchy of Special Needs.

Maslow’s experiments involved observing the behavior of monkeys with what he called “physical abnormalities” (Maslow, 1944). He concluded that disabled monkeys prioritized their needs differently than his control group of able-bodied monkeys.

“In a previous paper, it has been established that the basic needs of monkeys must be satisfied before higher needs emerge. This theory, however, is not enough to encompass the non-homogenous conscious motivational content across physically abnormal and normal monkeys,” reads the recently discovered paper, which includes a diagram of a monkey in a makeshift wheelchair held together by twigs and sticky dirt.

More specifically, the paper notes that disabled monkeys began caring about higher-level needs like “safety” and “healthcare” before establishing several core physiological needs such as “walking,” “controlling muscular activity” and “the fine motor skills necessary to peel bananas efficiently.”

Maslow hypothesized that the Hierarchy of Special Needs encompasses more than the default five levels that make up his original Hierarchy of Needs. Modern sociologists have already posited additional stages such as “accessibility,” “health insurance” and “having less than $2000.”

The paper is now available through J-STOR behind an inaccessible paywall.

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