Maslow's hierarchy of needs

theory in developmental psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow, comprising a five-tier model of human needs: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is an idea in psychology proposed in 1943 by Abraham Maslow of a classification system which reflects the hierarchy of universal human needs. It is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid with the largest, most fundamental needs at the bottom and the need for self-actualization and transcendence at the top. The idea is that individuals' most basic needs (food, shelter)and emotional needs (safety, belonging, self esteem) must be met before they become motivated to achieve higher-level needs for "self-actualization".

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs


  • In his influential paper of 1943, A Theory of Human Motivation, the psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed that healthy human beings have a certain number of needs, and that these needs can be arranged in a hierarchy, with some needs (such as physiological and safety needs) being more primitive or basic than others (such as social and ego needs). Maslow’s so-called ‘hierarchy of needs’ is often presented as a five-level pyramid (pictured), with higher needs coming into focus only once lower, more basic needs have been met. Maslow called the bottom four levels of the pyramid ‘deficiency needs’ because we do not feel anything if they are met but become anxious or distressed if they are not. Thus, physiological needs such as eating, drinking, and sleeping are deficiency needs, as are safety needs, social needs such as friendship and sexual intimacy, and ego needs such as self-esteem and recognition. On the other hand, Maslow called the fifth, top level of the pyramid a ‘growth need’ because our need to self-actualize obliges us to go beyond our individual, limited selves and fulfil our true potential as human beings.
    • Our Hierarchy of Needs, Neel Burton, Psychology Today, (23 May 2012)
  • In 1943, the US psychologist Abraham Maslow published a paper called A Theory of Human Motivation, in which he said that people had five sets of needs, which come in a particular order. As each level of needs is satisfied, the desire to fulfil the next set kicks in. First, we have the basic needs for bodily functioning - fulfilled by eating, drinking and going to the toilet. Maslow also included sexual needs in this group. Then there is the desire to be safe, and secure in the knowledge that those basic needs will be fulfilled in the future too. After that comes our need for love, friendship and company. At this stage, Maslow writes, the individual "may even forget that once, when he was hungry, he sneered at love". The next stage is all about social recognition, status and respect. And the final stage, represented in the graphic as the topmost tip of the triangle, Maslow labelled with the psychologists' term "self-actualisation". It's about fulfilment - doing the thing that you were put on the planet to do. "A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately happy," wrote Maslow. "What a man can be, he must be." While there were no pyramids or triangles in the original paper, Maslow's hierarchy of needs is now usually illustrated with the symbol. And although the paper was written as pure psychology it has found its main application in management theory.
    • Abraham Maslow and the pyramid that beguiled business, William Kremer and Claudia Hammond, BBC World Service (September 2013)
  • Maslow’s idea that people are motivated by satisfying lower-level needs such as food, water, shelter, and security, before they can move on to being motivated by higher-level needs such as self-actualization, is the most well-known motivation theory in the world. There is nothing wrong with helping people satisfy what Maslow characterized as lower-level needs. Improvements in workplace conditions and safety should be applauded as the right thing to do. Seeing that people have enough food and water to meet their biological needs is the humane thing to do. Getting people off the streets into healthy environments is the decent thing to do.
    • What Maslow’s Hierarchy Won’t Tell You About Motivation by Susan Fowler, Harvard Business Review, (26 November 2014)
  • The leaders who thrive... Their real objective in their leadership, whether they’re conscious of it or not, is to provide all the necessary resources for their teams to reach what Abraham Maslow in 1943, referred to as “self-actualization.” Introduced in his paper, “Theory of Self-Actualization and the Hierarchy of Needs,” the pyramid we’ve come to call “Maslow’s Hierarchy” became the gold standard for everything from self-help manuals to positive psychology researchers and experts.
    Maslow’s work made it obvious that at its core, human nature is universal. We’re quite literally “born that way.” His theory of self-actualization was based on the premise that it is the nature of humans to also have universal needs. And that is true in team dynamics as well. Humans have universal needs to “maximize the use of their abilities and resources” when asked to function as part of a group, just as they do when reaching self-actualization as an individual.
    • Unlocking Your Team’s Potential: 6 Things You Must Provide, Jeanet Wade, Forbes (17 Jun 2021)

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