MHON, I remember when we first met.  It was the spring semester of 6th grade.  Everything seemed so simple then.  I remember the day well…Mrs. LaFe spoke on the classic pyramid of needs starting with physical needs up to the “self-actualisation”.  It was love at first site.

It was so fun to be around you MHON. The world was so orderly and simple.  Everyone I met and respected seemed to love you too. I never had any reason to doubt you until I left academia and became a consumer researcher in the real world.

As time went on I began to see that the simplicity appeared less as a guide but as a crutch.  As I went on more ethnographies and conducted more studies I began to see that people did not seem to follow the patterns you professed.  Further, I noticed that there were quite a few smart people saying some pretty harsh stuff about you.

“One of the problems is that the theory has been regarded as much more philosophical than empirical. That is, concepts like needs and self-actualisation are vague and not easily defined (Locke & Henne, 1986). Maslow did not provide operational definitions of these terms, and therefore, it is “almost a non-testable theory” (Wahba & Bridwell, 1976, p. 234). It was based on logical insights and clinical observations instead of research findings.”

—Penn State PSYCH 484 Course Book (online)

And what they were saying made a lot of sense.

Over the years the easiness of you, MHON, has become reductionist to the point of useless.  I now believe that people do not follow the same pre-set course at all but rather think and act using universal metaphors (e.g. Zaltman) rather than some Western-ethnocentric model.

MOHN, I think you were right for me at the time.  You helped me become the person I am today, but sadly I must break up with you.  I must move on to embrace truth and new paradigms for understanding human nature.

MHON, I am sorry to say it’s over.

What do you think?  Am I too harsh?  Way off base?  Just plain wrong…

Comment away!

Kyle Nel is Head of International and Multicultural Research for Lowe’s Home Improvement in USA