Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Before Abraham Maslow, the psychological world was awash in behaviorism and psychoanalysis. Maslow changed all this by popularizing psychological humanism. Famous people like Abraham Lincoln were subjects of study instead of people with broken brains. One of Maslow's most important contributions to psychology was his theory of human needs, developed in the 1970's. This theory explained that human needs where hierarchical in nature.

 Maslow, a humanistic psychologist, believed that people are not merely controlled by mechanical forces (the stimuli and reinforcement forces of behaviorism) or unconscious instinctual impulses of psychoanalysis. Maslow focused on human potential, believing the humans strive to reach the highest levels of their capabilities. People seek the frontiers of creativity, and strive to reach the highest levels of consciousness and wisdom. People at this level were labeled by other psychologists as "fully functioning" or possessing a "healthy personality". Maslow called these people "self-actualizing" persons.

 Maslow set up a hierarchical theory of needs in which all the basic needs are at the bottom, and the needs concerned with man's highest potential are at the top. The hierarchic theory is often represented as a pyramid, with the larger, lower levels representing the lower needs, and the upper point representing the need for self-actualization.

 Each level of the pyramid is dependent on the previous level. For example, a person does not feel the second need until the demands of the first have been satisfied. Maslow Hierarchy of Needs (1971) is rephrased and summarized below:

1.Physiological Needs. Biological needs such as oxygen, food, water, warmth/coolness, protection from storms and so forth. These needs are the strongest because if deprived, the person could or would die.

2.Safety Needs. Felt by adults during emergencies, periods of disorganization in the social structure (such as widespread rioting). Felt more frequently by children who often display signs of insecurity and their need to be safe.

3.Love, Affection and Belongingness Needs. The needs to escape loneliness and alienation and give (and receive) love, affection and the sense of belonging.

4.Esteem Needs. Need for a stable, firmly based, high level of self-respect, and respect from others in order to feel satisfied, self confident and valuable. If these needs are not met, the person feels inferior, weak, helpless and worthless.

5.Self-Actualization Needs. Maslow describes self-actualization as a person's need to be and do that which the person was born to do. It is his "calling". "A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write." If these needs are not met, the person feels restlessness, on edge, tense, and lacking something. Lower needs may also produce a restless feeling, but here is it much easier to find the cause. If a person is hungry, unsafe, not loved or accepted, or lacking self-esteem the cause is apparent. It is not always clear what a person wants when there is a need for self-actualization.


- Basic ideas from Contemporary Psychology and Effective Behavior by Coleman and Hammen, page 86-87 ISBN