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The hierarchy of human needs and their social valuation

  • Orlando Gomes

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to discuss the valuation of human needs within a given hierarchy. An important distinction is made between private utility and social relevance of needs. Design/methodology/approach – The authors consider a generic hierarchy of needs in a world of similar agents. For the assumed pyramid, agents have to predict the current social value of a need that they will try to fulfill only at some future date. Several possibilities are explored about the way agents predict the social value of future needs. Findings – It is found that if agents are unable to form an accurate forecast on the social value of a future need, distortions will eventually occur. Complex dynamics may emerge when agents try to learn future social values and use inaccurate learning algorithms. Research limitations/implications – The paper discusses how individuals measure the value of a need that is fulfilled in some future date. Results are dependent on the assumed learning algorithm. Different learning algorithms may lead to other kinds of long-term implications. Practical implications – The paper allows for a better understanding of how human needs can be valued. Social implications – It is highlighted that aggregate behavior on the evaluation of needs may be different from the behavior of an average agent. Originality/value – In this paper, the notion of hierarchy of needs is combined with an assessment of how agents form expectations about future events. This furnishes a new paradigm of analysis that can be explored in related future work.

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Article provided by Emerald Group Publishing in its journal International Journal of Social Economics.

Volume (Year): 38 (2011)
Issue (Month): 3 (February)
Pages: 237-259

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Handle: RePEc:eme:ijsepp:v:38:y:2011:i:3:p:237-259
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  1. Orsolya Lelkes, 2004. "Knowing what is good for you. Empirical analysis of personal preferences and the “objective good”," Others 0410010, EconWPA.
  2. Eddie Dekel & Barton Lipman & Aldo Rustichini, 2006. "Temptation–Driven Preferences," Discussion Papers 1423, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  3. Costanza, Robert & Fisher, Brendan & Ali, Saleem & Beer, Caroline & Bond, Lynne & Boumans, Roelof & Danigelis, Nicholas L. & Dickinson, Jennifer & Elliott, Carolyn & Farley, Joshua & Gayer, Diane Elli, 2007. "Quality of life: An approach integrating opportunities, human needs, and subjective well-being," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(2-3), pages 267-276, March.
  4. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7656, David K. Levine.
  5. Jawwad Noor, 2006. "Temptation, Welfare and Revealed Preference," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2006-025, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  6. Bullard James, 1994. "Learning Equilibria," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 468-485, December.
  7. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2001. "Temptation and Self-Control," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(6), pages 1403-1435, November.
  8. Eddie Dekel, 1997. "A Unique Subjective State Space for Unforeseen Contingencies," Discussion Papers 1202, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  9. Marcet, Albert & Sargent, Thomas J., 1989. "Convergence of least squares learning mechanisms in self-referential linear stochastic models," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 337-368, August.
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