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iPhone Versus Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

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After buying an iPhone, I have begun to wonder where consumer purchases fit into Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. In 1943, Abraham Maslow proposed a system of human needs in his paper, A Theory of Human Motivation. At the base level, Maslow suggested that humans have physiological needs -- to maintain homeostasis, breathe, and so on. Once those needs are met, the (sane) human seeks safety, then love and belonging, then esteem, then at the top level: self-actualization -- this is where creativity, morality, and general awesomeness reside.

Maslow's hierarchy makes a lot of sense to me -- it's certainly true that when a base need (for example, "It's awful darn cold in this room") isn't being met, satisfying that need becomes the primary motivator in my life, pushing aside the exciting work of self-actualization. But where I think it gets interesting is examining the effects of advertising and consumer culture on your personal hierarchy of needs. Apple managed to convince me that I Needed an iPhone a few weeks back, to the point that I put all my other needs on hold and stood in a line for several hours (in the hot sun and the rain), just to plunk down $600 and take home a phone. (Granted, a really neat phone that I enjoy, but still, not something that was a need before Apple told me it was.)

It seems to me that effective advertising creates an alternate, commercialized version of Maslow's pyramid -- where instead of attending to the real needs of yourself as a human being (everything from homeostasis to self-actualization), you buy into the desire to attain some new gizmo, eat a certain kind of food, in general meeting your needs by buying more stuff (and particular stuff -- this or that brand of cereal, for instance). In this alternate world, your needs are suggested to you by advertising, often at a specific time and place -- new Harry Potter book coming soon! -- and your experience of fulfilling those needs involves buying stuff and shifting priorities in your life in order to enable purchases.

Somewhere at the top of this commercial need pyramid (for me, anyway) is the iPhone, a device that effectively promised to simplify my life by reducing the number of gadgets I carried (all of which were previous commercial items I decided to buy). Before the iPhone, I already had a phone, an iPod, a laptop, and good internet access -- after it, I still have those things, but I also have an iPhone. Hmm. I was clearly in the target market because I'd already bought all the other gizmos, so now my need was to buy uber- or meta-gizmos to simplify. Ouch.

This experience of buying into a commercial need diverts the buyer into an experience where "must buy iPhone" is the primary need of the moment. The most amazing (and perhaps horrifying) part is, buying the iPhone actually felt like a form of self-actualization. It felt similar to being creative, and I was validated by all the other nerds buying theirs. I've heard stories of those who shopped at Apple Stores where lines of employees would high-five new iPhone buyers on their way out of the store. What's up with that?

I also wonder -- is it all that bad if buying something makes you feel good? It's certainly scary, but is it a valid option for being happy? To some extent, if paying $600 for an iPhone bought me $600 worth of happiness, that's actually pretty neat. I think where this gets hard to hold onto is when you compare my $600 of happiness to putting $600 in the bank (probably making me happier someday in the future), or giving it to someone who really needs it (to maintain homeostasis, for example), or what have you. But I suppose everything is relative -- if I stuck with that line of reasoning I'd probably live in a yurt. And who knows, maybe I'd be happier for it.

So what sits atop your hierarchy of needs? Is it some commercial need masquerading as self-actualization? Is it something personal, creative, or...other?

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Health
Scientist Asks: Why Do We Weep?
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Sometimes we see the tears coming, and sometimes they catch us off guard; we find ourselves weeping without knowing why. It's a personal problem, but it's a scientific one, too: Why do people weep? What purpose does it serve? One expert attempts to answer these questions in a new article in the journal New Ideas in Psychology.

Article author Carlo V. Bellieni is a pediatrician and a bioethicist at Siena University Hospital in Italy. His previous studies have focused on children's emotional well-being and babies' crying and pain. For his latest paper, he examined data and observations on weeping from more than 70 studies and books from researchers stretching back all the way to Charles Darwin.

His conclusion? Weeping is "a complex phenomenon."

For starters, Bellieni writes, weeping is similar to crying, but it's not the same thing. Crying is typically a reaction to pain or anger. It's audible and physical, increasing heart rate, affecting breathing, and contorting the face and body. A crying person's voice changes, and their body makes more stress hormones like adrenaline. And while they don't shed tears, other animals cry, too.

Weeping, on the other hand, appears to be uniquely human. It's what happens when the cup of our emotions runneth over. We cry when we drop a cinderblock on our foot. We weep at funerals, and at weddings.

As Bellieni discovered, there are many theories on how we cry and weep, and where the tears come from. Some researchers have argued that we make tears to return ourselves to the soothing, fluid environment of the womb. Others theorize that our bodies start extruding tears (and snot) to keep our nose and throat from drying out as our breathing intensifies. Darwin's hypothesis was that the tears are a byproduct of scrunching up our faces, including the tear-production glands.

None of these theories seem especially plausible, Bellieni writes. So for now, the answer to the physical question is, "We don't really know."

The emotional and social sides of the weeping equation are slightly more straightforward.

Weeping is a form of releasing intense emotion and physical tension. When we weep, we tell our body that it's okay to relax. This helps us reset our system, so to speak, and move on.

And seeing someone weep makes us want to help them, Bellieni says. Weeping makes other people want to help us. Visible sorrow is an opportunity to strengthen social ties. And among social animals like us, strong bonds mean a better chance of survival.

It's wrong to think of weeping as wimpy or weak, Bellieni says. In fact, it's "a strong behavior with positive effects on health and social interaction."

"In the light of these data," he concludes, "weeping appears to be a primal and important human behavior that deserves more attention."

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science
If You’ve Ever Seen a Ghost, Science May Explain Why
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Despite all the reports of ghost sightings (28 percent of Americans report having ghostly encounters), there’s zero evidence to support the presence of supernatural beings among us. Science may not prove the existence of ghosts, but it can help explain why people think they see ghosts in the first place.

In this video from Vox, paranormal investigator Joe Nickell identifies some of the phenomena believers may mistake for paranormal activity. One possible explanation is infrasound, or the sound waves that fall beneath levels of human perception. Though we can’t hear these noises firsthand, our bodies sense them in other ways. This can cause chills, feelings of unease and depression, and even hallucinations.

Other contributors may include sleep paralysis (when you wake up while your body is immobile and experience waking nightmares) and grief. There are also a few less common possibilities that aren’t covered in the video below: Mold poisoning, for instance, can lead to irrational fear and dementia. Suddenly, a visit from a poltergeist doesn’t sound so scary.

[h/t Vox]

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