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Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Photography, 2020

Abraham Maslow ranked human needs in a hierarchy that read, from low to high, physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization, in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”. A ranking is a compact form of comparisons between any two items on the list. Any comparison consists of an objective, a metric, and an appropriate measurement under such metric. Hypermarkets in the United States under COVID-19 serve as an ideal background against which the theoretical result of Maslow can be explored empirically. Hypermarkets have such a wide range of products that can be associated with all levels of the hierarchical pyramid. These stores under the global pandemic approximate a closed system where the lack of external substitutes or complements tames the noise in the associations between psychological needs and their physical representations. The well-developed capitalism in the country unifies the metric used for the objective. People vote for their needs with their dollars, and the magnitude of their needs can be easily measured by the number of stocks left in the store.

 

These images were taken at Costco and Walmart, two of America’s biggest hypermarkets, during my grocery runs under COVID-19. I realized that I was one of the many people who would only leave their homes for necessities and whose contact with the outside world had been limited by the walls of these stores. The restrictions imposed by the pandemic deflated our lives but served as natural parameters under which a large-scale psychological experiment could run itself. This artwork is an aesthetic report of this empirical experiment that confirms the validity of Maslow’s theory.

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© 2022 by Jiaqi Liu. All rights reserved.