Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (1943) is a psychological theory that explains how humans strive to meet their basic needs in order to achieve self-actualization. The theory is one of the most well-known and amongst the first theories to be create a overarching theory of what leads people to be motivate and have a fulfilled life. The theory is represented as a pyramid, with the most basic physiological needs at the bottom and the need for self-actualization at the top. Each layer of needs should be fulfilled before moving onto the next level of needs.

  1. Physiological needs- These are the basic needs of an individual which includes food, clothing, shelter, air, water, etc. These needs relate to the survival and maintenance of human life.
  2. Safety needs- These needs are also important for human beings. Everybody wants job security, protection against danger, safety of property, etc.
  3. Social needs- These needs emerge from society. Man is a social animal. These needs become important. For example- love, affection, belongingness, friendship, conversation, etc.
  4. Esteem needs- These needs relate to desire for self-respect, recognition and respect from others.
  5. Self-actualization needs- These are the needs of the highest order and these needs are found in those person whose previous four needs are satisfied. This will include need for social service, meditation.

This five-stage model can be divided into deficiency needs and growth needs. The first four levels are often referred to as deficiency needs (basic and psychological), meaning that people are motivated to fulfil these needs when they are not met. In contrast, growth needs (the highest level of self-actualization) are only sought out once the other four lower levels of needs are more of less satisfied.


While Maslow’s theory is widely understood and was a seminal piece of work in its time, many more theories have been introduced to understand human motivation. His theory is too prescriptive in declaring each stage must be met before the next stage can be engage with and the theory is very broad and all encompassing. While this is considered in organisational studies, other theories (like Self-determination Theory) is much more widely used and has more evidence supporting it as a predictor of motivation.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *