The purpose of this section is to discuss hunter-gatherer psychological fulfillment using motivators as identified in Frederick Herzberg’s “Two-Factor Theory” as found at and Greg R. Oldham and J. Richard Hackman’s “Job Characteristics Model” as found at

 Abraham Maslow was a clinical psychologist. He developed his human motivational ideas by observing his patients. He wrote little about the practical application of his ideas in organizational or social settings.

 Beginning with the works of Frederick Taylor near the beginning of the 20th century, scholars and managers began investigating work and productivity. Only since Maslow’s motivational ideas were published, have we begun to understand how motivation and psychological needs are involved in complex organizations and societies. The Herzberg, Oldham, Hackman’s models were developed to determine how work in businesses can be designed to increase worker productivity and personal satisfaction.

 Of course, a society, like any organization, involves people banding together to achieve group outcomes. Human psychological needs are the same whether in a hunter-gatherer tribe or working for a major corporation. Humans are humans regardless of the type of society they live and work in. The United States of America is a much larger population than a hunter-gatherer village but each is still made up of humans with the same individual psychological needs.

 In a less complex hunter-gatherer village it is easier for individuals to understand the meaningfulness of what they do, the outcome of their efforts, and the results of fulfilling or not fulfilling their roles.

 Using a popular word, hunter-gatherers lived on the “edge” of starvation and/or genocide by an enemy that wanted the resources of the conquered to support their families. This is what would happen if each member of a village did not fulfill his or her roles to support survival and safety. By achieving their important roles village members fulfilled their needs for belonging, personal self-respect, being respected by others, and “self-actualized.”

 Adults would be shunned by others if they did not strive to maintain good health and strength. Parents would be shunned if they had more children than they could feed and raise to become healthy and strong. For example, Luther Standing Bear reported his parents didn’t attempt to have another child until he was five or six years old. Parents would not be respected in the village if they had more children than they could feed and raise to become productive adults.

 In terms of job characteristics each hunter-gatherer would know and understand the variety of skills he or she much master to produce required outcomes or products. The significance of what they produce is clear; village survival and safety are threatened if they do not do their part. There being no laws, instruction manuals, or managers each person has the autonomy to master required skills and each person feels personal responsibilities to strive and achieve. Feedback regarding non-performance is clear if villagers do not have enough to eat and/or the enemy is being successful in taking over needed land and other resources.

 Striving to become an accomplished provider is challenging, villages recognize each person’s accomplishments, all understand responsibilities to the group and the meaningfulness of what they do. Group recognition is provided for what each person produces. Each person, that is doing his or her part in supporting village needs, gains self-respect for accomplishments.

 Although the United States of America is a much larger village it still made up of humans with the same psychological needs as hunter-gatherer villagers. Citizens that strive and achieve through individual efforts are respected by others and have self-respect for themselves.

  Comments are welcomed and can be sent to

© Joseph L. Bass, EdD,  August 2020