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Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

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Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (1943) is a theory of motivation that assumes the need for fulfilment or self-actualisation determines human behaviour. We achieve satisfaction by progressing through the different levels of a five-level pyramid, which is a sequential model of human needs.

In the hierarchy of needs, basic needs should be met first before moving upward to achieve higher psychological needs. Physiological needs, safety, belonging and love, esteem, and self-actualisation are the needs that show up in a linear progression.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs examples

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs [+] Hierarchy of needs graphic [+] StudySmarter

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, StudySmarter Originals

We can divide the five-level sequential pyramid model into deficiency needs, consisting of the first four structural levels, also known as (D-needs), and growth needs or B-needs (at the top of the pyramid).

Deficiency needs arise from the lack of basic needs, which causes people to become demotivated if these needs are not met. The motivation to fulfil these needs becomes stronger the longer they are neglected.

A vivid example is when you think about being thirsty, but the longer you go without drinking, the thirstier you become.

The deficiency needs aim at raising awareness to maintain physical and psychological balance. The needs in question are:

  • Physiological needs.
  • Safety needs.
  • Needs for belonging and love.
  • Esteem needs.

Growth needs arise from the desire to grow as an individual. When earlier needs such as physiological, safety, love, and belonging are met, the individual may strive for higher needs such as self-actualisation.

Humanistic psychologists advocate personal and individual growth as fundamental to being human.

Personal growth is about the development and changes a person undergoes to reach their full potential.

All people have an innate predisposition to reach their full potential and become the best version of themselves. Self-actualisation is the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Maslow (1943) previously asserted that individuals should follow the hierarchy of needs in a linear faction, meaning that they can only develop in that order. Maslow (1986) also acknowledged that each person is different, and the model only works depending on each person’s circumstances.

If someone has the need to create a family but lacks resources, this could affect their physiological and safety needs while meeting love and belonging.

Physiological needs

The most basic survival needs are physiological and consist of biological needs, such as:

Air, water, food, sleep, shelter, clothing, homeostasis, etc.

Maslow claimed that physiological needs are the most important because the human body cannot function without satisfying these basic needs. All other levels of the sequence become secondary until the essential needs for existence are met.

Safety needs

Once the physiological needs are met, the human is satisfied and ready to move on to the second level, safety needs, which include:

Personal security, material resources, work, family, and health.

Material resources help us plan to achieve specific goals, such as travel or a healthy lifestyle. The security of being able to move freely is an example of the actions driven by the need for safety and security.

The two first sequential layers of the hierarchy of needs, safety and physiological levels, form the basic needs.

Love and belonging

The third next level is love and belonging, socialisation. Social needs play an important role when avoiding loneliness, depression, and anxiety. It is vital to feel loved and accepted by others. These also includes:

Social life, friendship, family, intimacy and feeling connected.

Esteem

The fourth level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs represents the need for appreciation and respect. The fourth level includes:

Respect from others, self-esteem, identity, recognition, strength, freedom.

When the previous needs are met, esteem plays a more significant role in the person’s behaviour. At this point, it is important others respect and appreciate us. We need to achieve goals and have other people recognise our efforts, including our worth or self-esteem.

We need to feel valued by ourselves and others. It gives us a sense of community and purpose when we know we contribute to a better world. When we lack self-esteem and respect from others, developing feelings of inferiority is one of the consequences.

Esteem and social needs together form the psychological needs of hierarchy.

Self- actualisation

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualisation. (. . .) This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming. — Abraham Maslow, Motivation and Personality.

When the preceding deficiency needs are satisfied, the individual can proceed to the satisfaction of the self-actualisation needs, which consist in the desire to become the best one can be. At the top level of Maslow’s hierarchy is self-actualisation. Maslow said,

what a man can be, he must be,

suggesting that people must follow their inner intuition to reach their full potential as human beings. Examples of these needs are as follows:

Cognitive needs, knowledge, insight, wisdom and aesthetic needs; symmetry, congruence, integration, spirituality, meditation, creativity, harmony and acceptance of the world as it is.

According to Maslow’s definition of self-actualisation:

It may be loosely described as the full use and exploitation of talents, capabilities, potentialities, etc. Such people seem to be fulfilling themselves and to be doing the best that they are capable of doing. They are people who have developed or are developing to the full stature of which they are capable.

Self-actualised people are self-aware and interested in their personal growth, including developing their true potential. It gives them the strength to hold on to their truth, not worry about others’ opinions of themselves, and follow their life, purpose, and mission.

Congruence and incongruence in self-actualisation

Carl Rogers, another humanistic psychologist, believed that self-actualisation is possible only when it is congruent. A person’s ideal self should be congruent (in harmony) with their behaviour, what they are (the real self). For this congruence to be possible, a child must grow up with a sense of unconditional positive regard from their parents, i.e., their parents love and accept them, even when they make mistakes. If children grow up with conditional positive regard (i.e., their parents show them love and acceptance only when they behave in a certain way), they will learn this behaviour. They will act only in such a way as to receive positive regard from their parents. This dynamic will affect their self-actualisation because they will not be free to develop as they wish.

When a person’s behaviour and life experiences (the real self) do not match their ideal self, it is called incongruence. When there is incongruence, self-actualisation cannot occur.

Criticism of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Time to examine some critical points of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.Among the weaknesses of Maslow's model are:

  • Maslow’s theory is difficult to test because he developed his theory using a quantitative method called biographical analysis.
  • He examined eighteen biographies and writings of self-actualised people, such as Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, William James, Aldous Huxley, Beethoven, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Mother Teresa.
  • He then developed a list of quality patterns associated with these specific groups of people rather than using a variety of people for research.

From a scientific perspective, there are several issues with this approach:

  • The first, which quickly becomes apparent, is that his research method is subjective and based entirely on his own opinion. Using a personal opinion for research is always prone to bias, which reduces the legitimacy of the data collected.
  • Therefore, Maslow’s definition of self-actualisation should not be accepted as scientific fact. Maslow’s analysis focused on a biased sample of self-actualised, highly educated white males, while the proportion of women in the research is rather small.
  • Another problem is that Maslow assumes that lower needs should be met before self-actualisation, which is not always the case. Therefore, the hierarchy of needs must be distorted in some aspects.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs - Key takeaways

  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology that consists of a sequential model that outlines human needs.
  • Maslow claimed that physiological needs are most important because the human body cannot function without satisfying these basic needs.
  • Social needs play an essential role in preventing loneliness, depression, and anxiety.
  • We need to achieve goals and be recognised for our efforts, including our worth.
  • Deficiency needs arise from the lack of basic existential needs, which can cause people to become demotivated when these needs are not met.
  • Growth needs arise from the desire to grow as an individual. When these growth needs are met, the individual can reach the highest level of needs, self-actualisation.

Frequently Asked Questions about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology that consists of a sequential model that outlines human needs portrayed through a hierarchical sequence of a five-level pyramid, from basic needs (physiological needs) to more complex needs, such as psychological needs and furthermore self-actualisation.

Maslow proposed the hierarchy of needs in order to comprehend the relations behind human drives and motives surrounding our existence. He conducted the research based on eighteen biographies and writings of self-actualised people, aiming to arrange a model to  create a structure for people to realise themselves and if so to let them be aware and free to achieve self-actualisation. 

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is important for us to realise that we are unique human beings, and to allow us to think more creatively and strategically when organising how to achieve our goals. It helps us to better understand career development plans, behaviours, goals, and experiences. It empowers us to identify our interests, skill sets, strengths, and values.

We can divide the five-level sequential pyramid model into deficiency needs, consisting of the first four structural levels, also known as (D-needs), and growth needs or B-needs (at the top of the pyramid).

Final Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Quiz

Question

What is the most basic need according to Maslow's hierarchy model?

Show answer

Answer

The most fundamental needs from a survival standpoint are physiological and consist of biological needs.

Show question

Question

What are some examples of physiological needs?

Show answer

Answer

Air, water, food, sleep, shelter, clothing, homeostasis, etc.

Show question

Question

What are the examples of action 

supporting our safety needs?


Show answer

Answer

Having material resources to plan and achieve ideals or being healthy, 

having safety to move around are examples 

of actions driven by security and safety needs.


Show question

Question

How can love and belonging 

needs support us?

Show answer

Answer

Social needs play an important role when avoiding 

loneliness, depression, and anxiety. It is vital to 

feel loved and accepted by others.

Show question

Question

What is the fourth level of 

Maslow's hierarchy?



Show answer

Answer

The fourth level of Maslow's hierarchy 

is the need for appreciation 

and respect.

Show question

Question

What is the top level of Maslow's hierarchy?

Show answer

Answer

At the top level of Maslow's 

hierarchy is self-actualisation.

Show question

Question

True or false: Self-actualised people are self-aware and interested in their personal growth, including developing their true potential. It gives them the strength to hold on to their truth, not worry about others’ opinions of themselves, and follow their life, purpose, and mission.

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

What are deficiency needs?  

Show answer

Answer

Deficiency needs refer to the deprivation of 

basic needs for too long. People can become 

demotivated if those needs are unmet. The motivation to fulfil these needs 

can become stronger the longer certain needs are neglected.

Show question

Question

What do deficiency needs aim at?


Show answer

Answer

The deficiency needs aim at raising awareness to maintain physical and psychological balance.

Show question

Question

Where do growth needs emerge from?

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Answer

Growth needs emerge from the desire to grow as an individual.

Show question

Question

What happens when growth needs are achieved?

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Answer

When these growth needs have been achieved, the individual may reach the highest level of need satisfaction or self-actualisation.

Show question

Question

Is Maslow's hierarchy of needs proven scientifically?

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Answer

No. It is not.

Show question

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