Maslow's hierarchy of needs

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Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology that Abraham Maslow proposed in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation, which he subsequently extended. His theory contends that as humans meet their basic needs, they seek to satisfy successively higher needs that occupy a set hierarchy.


Pyramid of needs

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Diagram of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the four lower levels are grouped together as deficiency needs, while the top level is referred to as being needs. While our deficiency needs must be met, our being needs are continually shaping our behaviour. The basic concept is that the higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus once all the needs that are lower down in the pyramid are mainly or entirely satisfied. Growth forces create upward movement in the hierarchy, whereas regressive forces push prepotent needs further down the hierarchy.

Safety needs

When his physiological needs are met, a human next turns to his need for safety. The need for safety or security ranks above all other desires; a properly-functioning society tends to provide security to its members. Recent examples of failure in this area include the cases of societal breakdown in Somalia and Afghanistan. Sometimes the desire for safety outweighs the requirement to satisfy physiological needs; for example, during the Kosovo War many residents of Kosovo chose to occupy a secure area rather than an insecure area, even though the latter provided better access to food.

Love/Belonging needs

Once a person's needs for security and physiological are largely met, a third layer of human needs starts to become apparent. This involves the perceived need for companionship (both sexual and non-sexual) and having children, as well as for emotionally-based relationships in general, including a sense of community or affiliation. Humans want to belong to groups, whether clubs, work groups, religious groups, family, gangs etc. We need to feel loved (sexually and nonsexually) by others, and to be accepted by others. We also need to be needed. In the absence of these elements, people become increasingly susceptible to loneliness and social anxieties.

Esteem needs

There are two versions of esteem needs - the need for the respect of and recognition by others, and the need for self-respect.

Being needs

While the basic needs are "deficiency needs", and can be met and neutralised (i.e. they stop being motivators in one's life), self-actualization and transcendence are "being" or "growth needs" (also termed "B-needs"), i.e. they are enduring motivations or drivers of behaviour.


Self-actualization (a term originated by Kurt Goldstein) is the instinctual need of a human to make the most of their unique abilities. Maslow described it as follows:

A musician must make music, the 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. (Motivation and Personality, 1954.)

Maslow writes of self-actualizing people that:

  • They embrace the facts and realities of the world (including themselves) rather than denying or avoiding them.
  • They are spontaneous in their ideas and actions.
  • They are creative.
  • They are interested in solving problems; this often includes the problems of others. Solving these problems is often a key focus in their lives.
  • They feel a closeness to other people, and generally appreciate life.
  • They have a system of morality that is fully internalized and independent of external authority.
  • They judge others without prejudice, in a way that can be termed objective.


Although Maslow tentatively placed transcendence at the top of his hierarchy, this element has been discounted by most modern psychologists because they feel it really belongs in the domain of religious belief.


  • Maslow, Abraham H, Motivation and Personality, 2nd. ed., New York, Harper & Row, 1970 ISBN 0060419873
  • A. H. Maslow. A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396. (1943)
  • M. A. Wahba & L. G. Bridwell. Maslow reconsidered: A review of research on the need hierarchy theory. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 15, 212-240. (1976).

See also

External links

es:Pirámide de Maslow fr:Pyramide des besoins pl:Hierarchia potrzeb fi:Maslow'n tarvehierarkia sv:Behovshierarki


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