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Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology, proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation. [ 2]
Neher (1991, FREE PDF) summarises and critically evaluates the theory. From the abstract:
This critique of Maslow's theory of motivation examines all of its major components. The theory is summarized and its basic propositions are analyzed in the light of internal logic, other relevant theories, and related research. This examination points up many deficiencies in Maslow's theory, which enjoys wide acceptance, especially among humanistic psychologists. Suggestions are made regarding modifications to the theory that would remedy many of its more serious problems but at the same time preserve its perceptive insights.
The lack of empirical evidence was already discussed in an older article by Wahba et al. (1976).
The uncritical acceptance of Maslow's need hierarchy theory despite the lack of empirical evidence is discussed and the need for a review of recent empirical evidence is emphasized. A review of ten factor-analytic and three ranking studies testing Maslow's theory showed only partial support for the concept of need hierarchy. A large number of cross-sectional studies showed no clear evidence for Maslow's deprivation/domination proposition except with regard to self-actualization. Longitudinal studies testing Maslow's gratification/activation proposition showed no support, and the limited support received from cross-sectional studies is questionable due to numerous measurement problems. The difficulties with testing the theory are discussed and the conceptual, methodological, and measurement problems of the studies reviewed are detailed. The implications of the findings and future directions for research are outlined.
Neher, A. (1991). Maslow's theory of motivation: A critique. Journal of Humanistic Psycholgoy, 31, 3. FREE PDF
Mahmoud A. Wahba, Lawrence G. Bridwell, Maslow reconsidered: A review of research on the need hierarchy theory (1976), or a free pdf scan here