As discussed earlier, Abraham Maslow found that individuals are motivated through a hierarchy of needs. A person is naturally motivated to secure survival, safety, belonging to a group, personal self-respect and being respected by others, and “self-actualized.” Being “self-actualized” is a psychological state of mine that a person feels that he or she is being able to develop and apply natural capabilities within their social environment.
For hunter-gatherers, fulfilling the higher levels of psychological needs focuses on providing contributions to the first levels – survival and safety. A major difference between the hunter-gatherer social structure and today’s more-complex societies is based on the fact that learning how to and contributing to group survival and safety begins at an early age during their pre-teen years.
There was no “school” as a separate institution. There was no long delay between learning and a child beginning to fulfill his or her adult role and responsibilities. For example, pre-teen boys began to provide meat and pelts by killing rabbits and squirrels through throwing stones. By the same age, boys make their own bows and arrows that are effective enough for hunting small game. During their pre-teen years, girls begin to do work along side their mothers.
Learning how to fulfill their adult roles is achieved through watching adults carry out their roles and through experiential learning. Through this learning process of watching and doing children are able to begin fulfilling their adult roles in their early teens.
Because hunter-gatherer individuals were able to begin contributing to group needs there was very little crime or conflict among them. Survival of individuals and the group is directly related to everyone working together toward common goals.
© Joseph L. Bass, EdD, June 2020