Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – an Overview

08.10.20 Methodology Time to read: 6min

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The human motivation theory developed by an American psychologist Abraham Maslow and published in 1943, proposed a five-level model of fundamental human needs. Maslows hierarchy of needs model categorizes the needs as either primary or growth. The deficiency or basic needs are the most critical to an organism, and therefore, they must first be satisfied before an organism can advance to meet newer and higher-level needs.

Maslows needs’ hierarchy is a psychological health theory predicated on fulfilling human needs according to priority, with the pinnacle being self-actualization. Maslow expressed his idea fully in his 1954 book ‘Motivation and Personality,’ and it has remained a popular sociology research framework and higher psychology instruction.

Maslows Hierarchy of Needs – In a nutshell

Maslows hierarchy of needs postulates that:

  • A ranking of needs motivates human behaviour.
  • Human needs are organized in a way that an organism must meet the most prepotent needs first with the culmination being self-actualization.
  • Human behaviour is usually determined by not only one of the basic needs but simultaneously by several other requirements.

Maslow´s Hierarchy of Needs: Definition

It is a psychological theory featuring a hierarchical system of human needs. Needs lower down the order have to be met if an individual is to focus their motivation on higher needs. Alternatively, Maslows hierarchy of needs theory can be illustrated as a dynamic hierarchy where different needs overlap simultaneously.

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Overview of Maslow´s hierarchy of needs

Maslows hierarchy is often represented as a five-tier pyramid divided into deficiency (d-needs) and self-actualization needs. The initial four-tier are the d-needs, which will result in tension and anxiety if they are not met and must be met to motivate an individual to focus on higher needs. The top-level of Maslows hierarchy of needs is referred to as the b(being/growth)-needs.
Here is an in-depth look at Maslows hierarchy of needs

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Physiological needs

Physiological needs (d-need)

According to Maslows hierarchy of needs, physiological needs represent the main physical requirement for human survival and include homeostasis, food, and water; these are the most prepotent of all conditions. If the physiological needs are not satisfied, and an organism has other requirements, the individual will push them into the background until the physiological needs are met. Physiological needs can be defined as traits and a state.
The traits refer to the long-term needs required for basic human life, while the state refers to the unpleasant reduction in pleasure and increase in the urgency to meet a necessity.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Safety needs

Safety needs (d)

Once the physiological needs are reasonably well satisfied, the safety needs (stability, security, protection, freedom from fear and anxiety, need for structure) will then take precedence. If an individual does not feel secure, he/she will first look for safety before looking to achieve higher needs in Maslows hierarchy of needs. In his 1954 book, Maslow says that the threat of chaos or lack of security can be expected to produce a pulling back from higher demands to focus on safety needs. Safety needs can also explain why humans tend to purchase insurance, form a savings account, and prefer more significantly secure jobs.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Belongingness and love needs

Belongingness and love (d)

In maslows hierarchy of needs, belongingness and love needs will emerge after the physiological and safety requirements are reasonably well satisfied. The love needs involve receiving and giving affection, both romantic and platonic. An individual lacking this will feel the absence of relations and will hunger for it. The belonging need consists in wanting to feel part of a clan, a sense of belongingness. Having achieved other lower-level conditions, satisfying love and belonging needs will be an individual’s top priority. She/he may even forget that this need seemed unnecessary when they lacked the physiological conditions.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Esteem needs

Esteem needs (d)

Maslow postulates that esteem needs may be divided into two categories. First, self-esteem, such as the desire for strength, competence, and confidence in front of others, and it produces adequacy and usefulness when satisfied. Secondly, esteem from others involves the need to be recognized, respected, and appreciated by others. Individuals will participate in activities to gain recognition. Maslow further states that the healthiest self-esteem needs to be based on respect from others that is deserved rather than unwarranted respect, such as one that comes with extreme fame.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Self-actualization

Self-actualization (b-need)

Self-actualization is the culmination of Maslows hierarchy of needs. Even if all the d-needs are met, individuals will still often develop discontent unless she/he is doing what they are fit for. Maslow, in his book ‘Motivation and Personality,’ best sums up self-actualization as:

“Musicians must make music; artists must paint, poets must write if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves. What humans can be, they must be. They must be true to their nature. This need we may call self-actualization. . .. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one idiosyncratically is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.” — Abraham Maslow, Motivation and Personality

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Criticisms of Maslow´s hierarchy of needs

Maslows hierarchy of needs, while achieving widespread influence even outside the field of academia, has also come under criticism for various aspects including:

  • Some critics also point out that the priority of needs model may not always be applicable. The requirements may not follow the definite tier model, with a higher-level need emerging even if a lower level need may not have been satisfied.
  • Methodology- In developing the Maslows hierarchy of needs, Maslow studied only the master class of people, including Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the healthiest 1% of the student population in college. He did not examine the mentally ill, writing, “the study of crippled, stunted, immature, and unhealthy specimens can yield only a cripple psychology and a cripple philosophy.”
  • In Maslows hierarchy of needs model, the position of sex in physiological needs have also been criticized as only looking at it from an individualistic perspective. Some critics feel that this position ignores the emotional and evolutionary effects of sex in the community.
  • Maslows hierarchy of needs has also received criticism, saying that it is not universal, and the order can vary across different regions and age groups.
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Maslow´s Hierarchy of Needs - FAQs

The basic human needs, according to Maslows hierarchy of needs, are:

▪ Physiological needs- food, water, sleep, clothes, and homeostasis
▪ Safety needs- security, stability, freedom from fear, anxiety, and chaos
▪ Belonging and love needs- giving and receiving affection, friendships, intimacy, and family.
▪ Esteem needs- need for self-esteem and the esteem of others.
▪ Self-actualization- this is the realization of one’s full potential.

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Maslows needs’ hierarchy is a useful tool in assessing the direction our lives are taking. By identifying one’s needs and motivations, one can re-arrange and balance their life as needed and be on their path to self-improvement.

Without the most basic needs such as food and water being satisfied, one cannot pursue other higher hierarchy needs. A starving person, for example, no other interests exist for them but food. She/he will think about food and perceive only food.

This is an eight-tier model that includes three added needs: cognitive needs, aesthetic needs, and transcendence needs.