Hierarchy of Human Tribe: Explaining Human Behavior
In 1943, Abraham Maslow created what became known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which has since been a defining theory of human motivation to those in the field of psychology and behavior analysis.
However, even after Maslow updated the hierarchy to an 8-tier pyramid in 1970, my thinking is that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the complimenting psychological models for behavior and motivation do not explain the topic as thoroughly as we might be capable of doing.
What is missing directly from Maslow’s Hierarchy and most theories on motivation, I believe, is an emphasis on “imagined human entities”, how they behave, and how human behavior is affected by the “imagined human entities” they most identify with.
What are imagined human entities?
Imagined human entities are fictional organizations and tribes that only exist within the minds of humans, you may be familiar with a few these in your life, just not by that name. Some examples are nation-states like the United States, company LLCs like Goldman Sachs, sports organizations like the Yankees, universities like Harvard and even religions like Islam or Christianity. However, the list does not end there, a club soccer team, the cult of Madonna, the cult of Gucci and cults who identify with foods such as pizza or Chipotle all represent “imagined human entities.”
Imagined human entities are not real. In other words, they are not natural to the world and exist only within our minds. Goldman Sachs, for example, is not a real thing. Goldman Sachs did not develop into this world through mitosis. A fancy sign does not make it real, nor does an office building. Also consider those who identify with pizza, for example. While pizza is not a legitimate organization, it is comprised of a non-physical tribe that exists within our mind, therefore, the cult of Pizza is an “imagined human entity.”
What’s important to know about imagined human entities is that despite their fictional nature, the collective acknowledgment of them within the human mind allows them to still have massive implications on the physical world and more specifically, human behavior.
Important note: moving forward, “imagined human entities” will be referred to as Human Tribes to ensure clarity and communication.
What’s Missing from Current Models of Motivation
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (as updated in 1970) is one of the most accurate theories for human motivation we have today. I aim not to dispute that, but instead, I aim to first argue that the application of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs applies not just to humans, but also to Human Tribes (imagined human entities). My second argument is the presentation of a separate hierarchy that assists in explaining human behavior through universal principles associated with Human Tribes and how individuals identify with them.
This separate hierarchy is what we may call the Hierarchy of Human Tribe.
My presented hierarchy, the Hierarchy of Human Tribe, suggests that the behavior and motivation of all persons are not just influenced by personal needs, but also influenced to a great extent by the needs and motivations of the Human Tribes (imagined human entities) they identify with. Additionally, not all tribes have equal influence, and that is where the hierarchy of influence develops.
Example: The Hierarchy of Human Tribe posits that if a Human Tribe someone identifies with, be it their job or nation, is struggling with physiological needs then that sense of scarcity will be psychologically adopted by that person (and other identifying individuals) creating a notable shift in behavior.
Before we dive into the Hierarchy of Human Tribe, what those tribes are and how they influence someone, we first need to understand the base principle: all behavior of Human Tribes (just as with individuals) are subject to the motivation principles in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Applied to Human Tribes
Human Tribes at their core, while fictional, exist within the real world through the collective discussion, thought and action of persons towards and within those entities.
Furthermore, when we study the actions and behaviors of Human Tribes such as a nation, company or sports organization, we find that they reflect massive similarities towards that of the behavior in humans.
Unsurprisingly, this is because the only way Human Tribes “behave” is when the people who are enrolled in those entities collectively pool their minds together to make decisions and drive the behavior of those entities.
Such that, it is no surprise Human Tribes and we operate in similar fashions. Just as neurons and synapses are pulling the strings to human behavior, such is the same for humans pulling the strings to Human Tribes.
Considering this, we first establish that Human Tribes operate under the same basic principles of motivation found in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Goldman Sachs, a bank and a Human Tribe is subject to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In this example, we present Goldman Sachs in a state in which it is lacking one of its core physiological needs, money.
This theory posits that when a corporation (or any Human Tribe) lacks its physiological needs, in this case, money, it is likely to change behavior accordingly to acquire that resource.
In this example below, we’ve taken Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and changed some of the “needs” to suit a Corporation (rather than a person) and applied a correlating behavior to the right-hand side of the pyramid for when that tier/resource is supplied.
So considering our example, when Goldman Sachs lacks its physiological needs, such as in this case money, we find the resulting behavior to be unethical resource farming.
As a reminder for the understanding the motivation of Human Tribes, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs always represents the gross average of predictable behavior. This means just as there are exceptions when explaining human behavior, there too will be exceptions when explaining the behavior of human tribes (i.e. not all corporations will become unethical). This, however, does not take away from the applicability of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs towards Human Tribes.
With the consideration of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs applied to Human Tribes, let’s move on to see what the Hierarchy of Human Tribe is and how this changes the behavior of a single individual.
The Hierarchy of Human Tribe
The Hierarchy of Human Tribe argues that individual human behavior and motivation is heavily influenced by how well met the needs are of the Human Tribes we identify with. Additionally, the level of influence a Human Tribe has will vary based on how intensely a person might identify with that Human Tribe.
If we put this into a math equation it would look like this:
Intensity of Identification with specific Human Tribe + Needs of that Human Tribe
= Influence on single individuals Human behavior and motivation
Two Considerations for the Design of the Hierarchy of Human Tribe:
For the current model of the Hierarchy of Human Tribe, complexity arises because it is based on a principle that there is no universal pyramid. As we see with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the pyramid is structured and set. With the Hierarchy of Human Tribe, at this time, there is not enough data to decree a universally set structure to which Human Tribes most influence human motivation and behavior. This is because Human Tribes have no direct influence on the mind and only affect an individual’s behavior if they have consciously decided to identify and give mind to that imagined entity.
In other words, there can be no universal structure to the Hierarchy of Human Tribe because all tribes are learned. If you raise a child in a cage his whole life with no outside interaction, his behavior will be completely unaffected if he hears the United States has fractured and disassembled.
Further example: a jihadist may identify to a great extent with his Religious Human Tribe, even to the extent that he places its welfare above family or self (i.e. suicide bombing and executing non-believing family members). Conversely, a standard American Christian takes his religion more lightly and will likely not place the needs of the Catholic Church above that of his or his family’s welfare.
The second most important consideration for the design of the Hierarchy of Human Tribe is that all people align with hundreds of Human Tribes due to their fictitious nature. The tribes we identify with range from the companies we work for, the countries we live in, the countries we visit, the clothing brands we wear, the sports teams we cheer for, the schools we attended, the books we read, the food we eat and so forth. Most any brand, person or belief, and their associated following are a Human Tribe.
Most of these tribes generally employ a weak connection and can be lumped together into simplified categories.
Therefore, in the current model of the Hierarchy of Human Tribe, there have been eight core tiers assembled that most accurately account for the varieties of Human Tribes in the world.
The Eight Tiers of Human Tribe:
Self: the human tribe of self is the consideration of the needs, existence, and well-being of one individual looking inwards towards himself for his own needs and wants. This generally ranks first and influences the identification with all other types of Human Tribe.
Family: the human tribe of family is the consideration of the needs, existence, and well-being of fathers, mothers, brothers, uncles, aunts, children, grand parents, grand children etc. Family generally ranks second and heavily influences the importance of Job and Nation State.
Religion: the human tribe of religion is the consideration of the needs, existence, and well-being of the Church, Religion, and the associating principles one may identify with. Religion generally ranks third but will significantly vary based on degree of identification. Religion finds its greatest influence on behavior through consistent ritual.
Job: the human tribe of job is the consideration of the needs, existence, and well-being for the entities that individual find their means of support. The Human Tribe of job usually ranks fourth due to its stronghold on everyday life, however, it remains at four because, in the general individual, there is little urgency associated with the survival of that Human Tribe. Jobs are defined by whatever fictional entity provides the means for physiological resources of self and family. I.e. the Human Tribe of job could be welfare, an author’s books, a corporate 9-5 or a bar restaurant.
Nation State: the human tribe of nation state is the consideration of the needs, existence, and well-being for Human Tribes based on geographical territories. Generally, Nation State generally ranks fifth. Nation State finds peculiar influence. Due to its perceived size, motivation to become involved in the well-being of the Nation State is low because of the perception of marginalized impact. However, we find great identification with Nation State to the point of death within some individuals. Nation State identification is most influenced based on place of residence and birth.
Weekend Organizations: the human tribe of weekend organizations is the considerations of the needs, existence, and well-being for established entities that require enrollment such as club sports, students at universities, writing associations, awards programs etc. Weekend Organizations generally rank sixth because they usually find strong identification from their members due to exclusivity. However, motivation to become involved in the welfare of Weekend Organizations is low because they are perceived with low importance.
Friends: the human tribe of friends is the considerations of the needs, existence, and well-being for people and their perceived circles of friends based on cultural experiences be it clothing, professional sports teams, material branding and like interests. Friends generally rank seventh. Identification tends to be moderate and urgency for involvement is low as the perceived existence of these Human Tribes is weak.
Species: the human tribe of species is the considerations of the needs, existence and well-being for the human race as a whole such as finding motivation to ensure the welfare of the entity as a whole. Species generally ranks eighth as for similar reasons as to Nation State. Identification with Species is low and perceived level of impact is marginalized by scale.
Using the outlined eight categories of Human Tribe, we find ourselves able to assemble on sample hierarchy as measured on “a general average.”
We find ourselves with the hierarchy below:
As with the aforementioned information that led to the design of the Hierarchy of Human Tribe, there remain three important considerations for interpretation.
Three Important Considerations for Interpretation:
First consideration: It cannot be emphasized enough that the ranking and hierarchy of tribes is based on each categories general day to day influence and the strength of that influence. In the above example, we find that “Religion” ranks third and “Job” fourth. While we spend far more time at work day to day, it can often be said, on a general measure, the principles that guide that individuals behavior throughout the entire day is based on their religious identification. Another example we find with this is that “Job” is ranked four and “Nation State” five, despite the fact that many people are willing to die for their Nation State but not their Job. However, on a general day to day measure of the sum average, Job is more influential on motivations and behavior. This presents the field of thought that is recommended to be used when considering the Hierarchy of Human Tribe for any person or populace. Think first towards sum average of general influence, not towards extreme cases.
Second Consideration: Unlike in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs where there is a sense of aspiration to reach the top of the pyramid, the Hierarchy of Human Tribe has not that. Within the Hierarchy of Human Tribe, there is no further “attainment of the self.” The Hierarchy of Human Tribe is a pecking order of weighted influence, not a scale of development.
Third Consideration: An important reminder when considering the basis of this theory is that the behavior of Human Tribes, just as we, are built on the principles of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and this principle supplies the whole premise for which Hierarchy of Human Tribe is built on. I.e., Human Tribes have an increasingly strong motivation on identifying individuals based on how urgent the survival needs and homeostasis needs are for that Human Tribe.
To further explain the third consideration: we identify with Human Tribes and how deeply we identify with these Human Tribes determines their influence on our behavior. The weight of that influence has two factors: first how deeply we identify with that tribe and secondly how well met the needs are (in reference to Maslow’s Hierarchy) for that Human Tribe.
This is how we arrived at the original equation mentioned above. Here it is again.
Intensity of Identification with specific Human Tribe + Needs of that Human Tribe
= Influence on single individuals Human behavior and motivation
To further visual this concept, the image below has been created with a sample Hierarchy of Human Tribe on the right. On the left is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. What the image is presenting is that every single category and Human Tribe we identify with is subject to the principles found within Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This then accordingly influences our behavior. If our Job is dying, our behavior will shift from a low to a great extent to ensure that Job’s survival.
The Hierarchy of Human Tribe Applied to Radical Islam
Using Radical Islamists as an example, we might find a different structure to the Hierarchy of Human Tribe.
See this sample hierarchy below:
In the above pyramid, we see that that religion comes first. This is because, for many Radical Islamists, the survival and welfare of religion come before the self, family or just about anything else.
Consider suicide bombers, for example. Under the logic of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, one can deduce survival of the self is the leading human motivation. However, when looking at a suicide bomber through the lens of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and without the Hierarchy of Human Tribe, strapping a bomb to your chest and killing yourself leaves us with unexplained behavior. If self-survival is the leading motivation, why would someone kill themselves?
However, if you apply the principles put forth using the Hierarchy of Human Tribe, the motivation for this behavior makes more sense: this individual identified so strongly with his religion, it’s survival was valued more than that of himself. Obviously, in this example, there is also self-gain to account for such as afterlife and pride, however that is delving in far too deep for an example.
Creating Predictive Models for the Hierarchy of Human Tribe
Theories and models are moot without considerable ability to predict behavior or understand behavior to some degree. The Hierarchy of Human Tribe faces the greatest level of adversity with prediction models due to the inability to generate perfectly accurate hierarchies applicable to the entire population. However, a structured universal hierarchy for Human Tribes is certainly not to be ruled out.
However, as of now, in attempting to create predictive and reactive models for human behavior, there are three measures that must be taken.
Catalog the Human Tribes one identifies with
Level of intensity one identifies with their Human Tribes
Degree of urgency for those tribes
As of now, there are a few leading ways to determine this information, and below, we will investigate those.
This consideration derives from the psychological concept of “nurture.” Tracking an individual, or population environment from birth will lead to obvious insights on the tribes they value. This is because if we remember, Human Tribes are imagined entities that exist only in our mind, therefore, our identification with them is also learned (beyond self and perhaps family).
So as we age, learn information and become culturally conditioned to value certain experiences and Human Tribes, that becomes what we identify with.
Myers Briggs Type-Indicator (MBTI)
MBTI is a foundational psychological concept and plays a role of potentially high value in the Hierarchy of Human Tribe. While the resulting personality categorization of MBTI is both a product of an individual nurture and nature, there is great potential to find correlations between MBTI and structures for an individual's Hierarchy of Human Tribe.
For example: it is generally regarded ENTJ’s (a personality type from MBTI) prefers to be independent and in charge. This personality type may have resulting identity associations with various Human Tribes. I.e. aversion towards Nation State because of its authoritative nature. While this is but an example with surely a multitude of flaws, the concept proves worth investigating.
Concluding the Hierarchy of Human Tribe
The resonating principle for the Hierarchy of Human Tribe is to present a model that accounts for the influence Human Tribes (imagined human entities) have on human behavior. While this is surely not ground-breaking, the field of psychology has lacked a concise model to account for this.
Scientists of this domain are urged to further consider, disprove, challenge or reinforce this theory. The opportunity for mapping and explaining human behavior through this additional lens is large.
The essential next steps are to better understand the general sum of species wide Human Tribe identification with the intent to discover a fixed universal hierarchy.