Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation, later extended. He formulated a hierarchy of human needs, and his theory contends that as the basic needs are met humans desire higher needs.

Table of contents
1 Pyramid of Needs
2 Critique
3 References
4 See Also
5 External links

Pyramid of Needs

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the four lower levels are grouped together as deficit needs, the top level is referred to as being needs. While deficit needs can be met, being needs are a continuing driving force. The basic idea of this hierarchy is, that higher needs come into focus only after all needs lower in the pyramid are met. Growth forces result in upward movement on the hierarchy, whereas regressive forces push prepotent needs down in the hierarchy.

Deficit Needs

The deficit needs (also termed D-needs by Maslow) are:

Physiological Needs

The body aims to achieve homeostasis, an equilibrium of different factors (water content of the blood, salt content, sugar content, protein content, fat content, calcium content, oxygen content, constant hydrogen-ion level/acid-base level, constant blood temperature). This is obtained with food, drinks, shelter, fresh air, a proper temperature, etc. If all of a human's needs are unmet then the physiological need takes the highest priority. Given hunger for love and food, a human is more likely to find a solution for the latter first. As a result all other desires and capacities are pushed on to the back burner.

Safety Needs

When the physiological needs are met then the human turns towards safety needs. Safety attains the highest priority over all other desires. A functioning society tends to provide this to its members. Recent examples of failure include Somalia and Afghanistan. Sometimes the desire for safety outweighs the desire to easily satisfy physiological needs; for example, many Kosovars chose to inhabit a secure area instead of an insecure area, the latter having more definite access to food. In the United States, government and media propoganda could much more easily manipulate public opinion after the 9/11 terrorist attacks; fear of insecurity factors powerfully into social calculus.

However, in the case of acute danger, safety comes before things like eating.

Love Needs (Belonging Needs)

If safety and physiological needs are met then the human being gravitates towards achieving fulfilment of love needs. A note worth making here is that sex is not equivalent to love. Love can and is often expressed sexually. Sexuality can at points be considered solely for its physiological basis.

Esteem Needs

This refers to the valuation given to one-self by other people.

Being Needs


Self-actualization (a term originated by Kurt Goldstein) is the instinctoid need of a human to make the most of their unique abilities. Maslow described it as:

A musician must make music, the artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualisation. (Motivation and Personality, 1954)

While other needs can be met fully, self-actualization is seen as "growing", i.e. as a continuing driving force. This is related to tikkun olam in the Jewish tradition--using one's skills to fix what is broken in the world.

However, it is seen that not everyone ultimately seeks self-actualization, as a strict reading of Maslow's hierarchy of needs seems to imply:

These individuals would not be noted in the history books, however, if they hadn't used their native writing, therapeutic or altruistic gifts in a way different from most. They were aggridants.


While Maslow's theory was seen as an improvement on previous theories of personality and motivation, concepts such as self-actualization are somewhat vague. In recent years, the theory as a whole and especially this term have been somewhat overused and are sometimes perceived as psycho-babble.

It is also problematic to operationalize and test Maslow's theory. There is no proof that every person has ability to become self-actualized.


See Also

External links