Theory of hierarchy of needs by Maslow

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Human motivation can be described as the gratification or fulfillment of different needs. These needs cover a wider spectrum of human interests, ranging from basic survival needs to deep emotional stimulation needs that surround an individual's psychological well-being. In 1954, Abraham Maslow, a clinical scientist who was interested in a wide scope of studying and interpreting individual needs, developed a hierarchy of human needs philosophy depicted in the shape of a pyramid (Maslow, 2013). A hierarchy is typically a presentation or organization that lists ideas or individuals from the lowest to the highest level. According to Maslow, people must meet the wants at the lower level of the hierarchy before they can have the motivation to work for the next heights.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

As stated by Taormina & Gao (2013), the Maslow hierarchy of needs is based on two concepts: the deficiency/lack needs and the growth desires. The primary and most fundamental four layers of the Maslow hierarchy concentrates on physical requirements, safety and security, love, and self-esteem. When individuals are unable to meet these deficiency wants, there may not be a concrete suggestion or warning, but they will feel tense, anxious, and uncomfortable. Maslow law theory suggests that the primary level of wants must comfortably get addressed before the person focuses on the higher-level needs, also known as the growth wants. The Maslow theory devised the term “meta motivation,” to explain and illustrate on the individuals who get beyond the choice of primary needs, working hard to strive for constant advancement.

Apparently, the human brain is a complicated and intricate organ with the ability to run parallel processes successfully at the same time; therefore, several distinct drives or incentives from any level of the Maslow’s hierarchy can appear instantly (Lester, 2013). In his theory, Maslow evidently discussed each of these phases, together with their satisfaction by the use of terms such as primary, general, and relative. It means, he acknowledged the possibility that different motivation levels may occur at an unconditioned time in an individual’s mind, but he/she have the power to recognize the fundamental types of motivation with the order by which they need to be addressed. The Maslow hierarchy of needs has seven levels as discussed below.

Physiological/Basic Needs

At the lowest level of the pyramid are the primary/physical needs. In his theory, Maslow stated that physiological needs are the fundamental requirements for human survival (Maslow, 2013). These wants include water, food, clothing, and shelter. When these desires are not met, the individual’s body cannot function appropriately, and it will eventually fail. Before thinking about anything else, people must have enough food to consume, adequate water to drink, and a place to rest when the darkness comes in, or they get exhausted. For all animals, water and food are metabolic necessities for ultimate survival. Again, Shelter and clothing offer required protection from cold, dangerous animals or any other elements that might endanger the body of a human being.

Safety and Security Needs

Once the individual’s basic needs are satisfied, the safety and security needs take precedence. At this level, people work hard to fulfill their safety and security. Apparently, persons feel the sense of being safe when they are confident that no harm can happen to them, that is either physical, emotional or mental harm. On the other hand, security is that sensation that people encounter when their anxieties, tense, and fears get managed or are low. When there is no physical safety as a result of natural disaster, war, childhood abuse, family violence, people encounter transgenerational trauma or post traumatic disorder due to stress (Niemela & Kim, 2014). Again, in the case where people have no economic safety due to lack of job opportunities or their business are failing, these needs manifest themselves in a way that individuals will develop a presence for job security, saving accounts, disability accommodations, insurance policies, among others. The level is most rampant to the young age, as they have a significant desire to feel secure and safe, and at the same time to the middle-aged who are not yet financially stable.

Love and Belongingness Needs

Immediately after fulfilling the basic and safety needs, people get motivated to meet the love and belongingness needs. The wants of this level are satisfied through working relationships with friends, family members, workmates, classmates, teachers, and any other significant persons. Working and satisfactory association show acceptance by others. Due to neglect, ostracism, hospitalism, shunning, among others, persons may be adversely affected, emotionally where they cannot establish and maintain significant relationships. According to the Maslow (2013), human beings are social beings, who need to have that sense of association and acceptance among their social groups whether big or small. Some example of large groups includes co-workers, clubs, professional organizations, gangs, sports teams, among others. On the other hand, small associations are those of mentors, work colleagues, family members, inmate partners, and the like. People become vulnerable to social anxiety, loneliness, and clinical depression when they have no one to show love to them.

Self-Esteem and Worth Needs

Once persons reasonably satisfy their need for association, they start to develop positive feelings of self-esteem and worth. Consequently, every person desire to be respected. As stated by Lester (2013), self-esteem explains on the unique human want to be valued and accepted by others. Many of the persons engage themselves in a hobby or profession to gain recognition and fame. These actions provide a sense of value and contribution to individuals. Apparently, an inferiority complex or low self-esteem may lead to dissatisfaction and imbalance at this stage. Those persons who are susceptible to inferiority need respect from others, with the desire to seek glory or fame; however, the two cannot help someone in building his/her self-worth until he/she internally accept who they are irrespective of their social status or worth (Tanner, 2016). In a business set up, the top executives in an organization are at this level of life, where they have met all the other three fundamental requirements. Nevertheless, emotional and psychological imbalance like depression hinders people from attaining a higher level of self-respect.

Cognitive Needs: Need to Know and Understand

Apparently, the first four human needs in the Maslow pyramid are essential for individual’s well-being, and undebatable for their fulfillment before a person acquire the motivation to search for knowledge and experiences to the higher levels (Tanner, 2016. The fifth level of the Maslow hierarchy illustrates on the individual’s desire to know and understand about the specific concepts. In a business set-up, most of the top officials such as the CEO’s are at this level, where they desire to know and explore more concerning the business operations and progress. With the adequate knowhow or information that most of the subordinates in the organization or society lacks, every stakeholder will consult with them, which results in them earning respect.

Aesthetic Needs

According to Maslow theory, aesthetics refers to the aspect of being symmetry and beautiful. These needs are secondary wants for individuals to appear pleasing in different ways to their peers and to the people who are at lower levels (Maslow, 2013). People at this level ensure that their houses are well decorated, their cars are well washed and waxed, they wrap birthday presents for their friends in an attractive manner, and they keep up with the newest style in clothing. However, people get motivated to satisfy these needs only when they fulfill the first five wants. In fact, in an organization set-up, just a few individuals who will climb to this level.

The Need for Self-Actualization

The highest level of the Maslow’s pyramid is the necessity for self-actualization. At this stage, individuals wish to become everything they are capable of, with the aim of realizing and utilizing their full capabilities, potential, and talent (Taormina & Gao, 2013). For example, a person may have an immense desire of becoming a governor in a given state. Unfortunately, it is rare for someone to reach this phase, where studies show that less than 1% persons achieve total self-actualization in their lifetime. Most of the high politicians are at this level, but rarely will any of an employee in an organization have a chance to reach the level.


Lester, D. (2013). Measuring Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Psychological Reports, 113(1), 15-17.

Kaur, A. (2013). Maslow’s need hierarchy theory: Applications and criticisms. Global Journal of Management and Business Studies, 3(10), 1061-1064.

Maslow, A. H. (2013). A theory of human motivation. Simon and Schuster.

Niemela, P., & Kim, S. (2014). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research (pp. 3843-3846). Springer Netherlands.

Tanner, R. (2016). Motivation: Applying Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory.

Taormina, R. J., & Gao, J. H. (2013). Maslow and the motivation hierarchy: Measuring satisfaction of the needs. The American journal of psychology, 126(2), 155-177.

December 28, 2022

Science Life

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Human Motivation Survival

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