Hierarchy of Needs

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By Lauren Kolacki

Abraham Harold Maslow was one of the most influential American psychologists of the twentieth century. He con- structed a motivational theory that proposed the idea that healthful human beings have distinct needs that need to be met in order to reach a level of self-fulfillment. Maslow called this theory the Hierarchy of Needs on account of its arrange- ment into a five-tier pyramid that signifies that life necessities must be consummated before one travel up the pyramid, ultimately experiencing a desire “to become everything one is capable of becoming” (Maslow, 1987, p. 64).

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs suggests that particular essentials take precedence over others and that society is deter- mined to secure these needs. Once the most basic tier of the pyramid is fulfilled, as human beings we are motivated to then attain increasingly complex needs.

  1. Physiological Needs: Biological requirements for human survival. For exam- ple, food, water, warmth, rest, homeostasis and sex. Maslow’s theory suggests that until these are fulfilled, individuals will not function optimally. These basic needs are the foundation in which the rest of the pyramid is built upon.
  2. Safety Needs: Security and safety, that is, physical and economic safety. Pro- tection from things such as war, conflict, violence and natural disasters are physical safety, whilst maintaining a job, paying bills and attain- ing life insurance is consid- ered economic safety.
  3. Belongingness and Love: Once the first two levels of basic needs are accomplished, psychological needs take greater precedence. Friends and intimate relationships give individuals a sense of belongingness and the desire to form and maintain lasting social connections. We seek activities and groups where we have the opportunity to create social connections.
  4. Esteem Needs: The second component of physiological needs states that once social needs have been met, indi- viduals feel the need to feel appreciated and respected. Human beings like to be recognized for what they accom- plish in all areas of their life. With recognition comes the sense that they are contributing importance to society.
  5. Self-Actualization: The highest tier on the pyramid. Maslow believes that this stage cannot be reached until all of those below have been fulfilled. Self-actualization is the desire to fulfill your optimal potential and be the best version of yourself.