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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

The Humanistic Psychologist, Abraham Maslow, developed a 5-Level theory, known as the Hierarchy of Needs, by which to explain human motivation.
According to the Hierarchy of Needs Theory, before human beings can seek to fulfill any other needs, our primary biological needs must be met (Maslow, 1970). This first level, according to Maslow’s Theory, addresses basic Physiological needs, including animal-level needs such as air to breathe, adequate food to eat, shelter against the elements, a living environment which is warm enough, sufficient sleep, and even sexual fulfillment on its simplest level (Mathes, 1981). Until these needs are met, humans can not possibly begin to address the meeting of more complex social or psychological needs beyond mere survival of the body. Thus, without the Physiological Needs being met we may experience illness, lack of comfort, irritation and other similar negative feelings in order to motivate us to address these needs and reach a homeostatic level of existence (Maslow, 1970).

An example of the Physiological Needs level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs would be our initial motivation to work or find employment. For it is through employment and work that the majority of modern human beings are able to provide themselves with the essentials of food, clothing, and proper shelter (Daft, 2008).

Following fulfillment of our Physiological Needs, according to Maslow, we will naturally seek to satisfy our Safety Needs, which tend to be more psychological (Maslow, 1970). These needs include such things as establishing a sense of consistency and security within our families, homes and communities (Maslow, 1970). Safety Needs must be met before we can seek out a sense of belonging and love.
An example of the significance of the need for Safety can be found where in situations where it is not being fulfilled. Children growing up in abusive or dysfunctional homes, or citizens living in the society of a war-torn nation cannot begin to devote attention to their needs of love and acceptance when their day-to-day living environments are unsafe and unstable (Mathes, 1981). Their full motivation is to seek a level of safety and consistency of living.

The next level in the Hierarchy of Needs Theory focuses on our motivation to fulfill Belongingness and Love Needs. These needs are centered around the human desire to belong to a Group, to be non-sexually loved, valued, and esteemed as having worth and value (Maslow, 1970). This need motivates us to join religious groups, groups and work, and to seek out the approval and appreciation of others (Daft, 2008).

An example of our Belongingness and Love Needs can be seen in those who perform, perhaps musically or theatrically, and who do so because of the acceptance the audiences gives by their applause. Next in the Hierarchy of Needs are Self-Esteem Needs, which involve two different areas. The first part of Self-Esteem Needs involves the sense of self-esteem which human beings achieve through competently mastering some task (Maslow, 1968). The second part of Self-Esteem Needs is related to our motivation to seek recognition. This need is a bit like the

Belongingness Needs, however this need to be admired is based on a need to achieve social power (Daft, 2008). An example of this level of needs could be demonstrated in those people who run for public office merely for the authority, power, and fame that it brings them rather than for the purpose bettering the society in which the live.

The final level in the Hierarchy of Needs, which human beings are only motivated to obtain once the previous needs are met, are the Self-Actualization Needs. This is the need of those who already “have everything,” and is the motivation to reach personal and spiritual growth, to pursue peace and esthetic values, commune with “god” (Maslow, 1970).

An example of this level of needs would be those who seek spiritual betterment and the fulfilling of self through the pursuit of through religious enlightenment. With all other needs met, they are free to cater to the motivation for self-improvement. Thus is the Hierarchy of Needs developed by Maslow between 1943 and 1953, including examples of each of its five levels


Maslow, Abraham Harold. (1970). Motivation and Personality. New York, NY: Harper

Maslow, Abraham Harold. (1968). Toward a Psychology of Being, (2nd Ed.). Princeton, NJ:

Van Nostrand/Insight Books

Mathes, Eugene W. (1981) Maslow‘s Hierarchy of Needs as a Guide For Living. Journal of

Humanistic Psychology, 21(4), 69-72. DOI: 10.1177/002216788102100406

Retrieved from:

Daft, Richard L. (2008). The Leadership Experience. Mason, Ohio: Thomson South-Western