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Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs

Updated on March 8, 2011

What is the meaning of life? The purpose of existence? How do we, as humans, find happiness here on Earth? These are the questions so often pondered by philosophers and common men alike. These are the very questions humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow was striving to answer, when, in the 1940s, he proposed a hierarchy of fundamental human needs, which he laid out in a pyramid form -- the most basic needs at the bottom, the most advanced at the pinnacle.

The pyramid layout is not merely for aesthetics: Each need is dependent on the ones below it. The lowest levels must be achieved before the next level of needs can be addressed.

Deficiency Needs

The bottom four layers of the pyramid are what Maslow calls "deficiency needs," or "D-needs," named because of the fact that the individual does not notice their presence, only when they are lacking.

At the very base lie physiological needs, including the most elementary of human necessities: food, water, oxygen, sleep, and other simple bodily functions.

Next in the hierarchy come safety needs. These consist of bodily, financial, and health security.

After physiological and safety needs are met, humans search out love and belonging needs, including community, friendship, family, and romantic love, as well as sexual intimacy.

The last of the deficiency needs are esteem needs--the needs for recognition, respect, as well as self-esteem. The individual achieves these needs by engaging in intellectual and physical activities that give them a sense of worth and value in the eyes of others.

Being Needs

"Being Needs," or "B-needs," are the prime motivators of behavior beyond basic survival.

Self Actualization is the drive to "be all you can be," to make the most of one's talents and circumstances to accomplish all one can.

Maslow extensively studied high-achieving people he considered self-actualizers to better define the qualities of those who reach their full potential. According to his writings, these people possess several qualities in common:

1. Awareness

  • efficient perception of reality
  • freshness of appreciation
  • peak experiences
  • ethical awareness

2. Honesty

  • philosophical sense of humor
  • social interest
  • deep interpersonal relationships
  • democratic character structure

3. Freedom

  • need for solitude
  • autonomous, independent
  • creativity, originality
  • spontaneous

4. Trust

  • problem centered
  • acceptance of self, others, nature
  • resistance to enculturation - identity with humanity

Self-Transcendence is an additional need that Maslow added to the pyramid after further feedback and research, and encompasses needs relating to the greater human experience, as opposed to the needs of the individual. These needs are sometimes referred to as "spiritual needs," and are considered by many the last step towards the ultimate purpose of human life.


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    • Jennifer Lynch profile image

      Jennifer Lynch 7 years ago from Stowmarket, Suffolk.

      I love this brilliant Jennifer

    • Joyus Crynoid profile image

      Joyus Crynoid 7 years ago from Eden

      This is an excellent hub. It is interesting to me that Maslow's hierarchy parallels the specfication hierarchy {organism{animal{mammal{ape{human}}}}}, with the base of the pyramid corresponding to the most general organismal needs, and the peak of the pyramid corresponding to specific human needs/purpose. So, you can describe the evolutionary development of "humanity" by working your way up from the bottom to the top of the pyramid.

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      jqs2009 8 years ago

      I took general psychology last year, and it put Maslow's hiearchy in a nutshell. After reading your informative entry, I can finally integrate it with what I've learned in lectures. Thanks! Your writing is straightforward and clear-cut:) I really enjoy reading it.

    • Myriad profile image

      Myriad 8 years ago from the bottom of your heart .. ie chennai!

      I ll say is such a reductionist way of looking at things .. Minds very cheap way of categorising .. and understanding based on will to manipulate ..I even dare say .. its .. somewhat .. superficial ..

    • profile image

      dennisematt 8 years ago

      I think, the reason people resort to drugs and alcohol is when your under the influence, all you can think about is the bottom tier of the pyramid. If all you can think about is...where is the bathroom? when will I 'get some' really cant worrry about anything else!! Its sad that people get so muddled up in thinking that they force themselves lower just to escape.

    • izettl profile image

      Laura Izett 9 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Great hub- and explained well. In my opinion, one of the closest answers to what is the purpose of life.


    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 9 years ago from West By God

      I have been looking for that pyramid for a while now. Thanks for the hub and the spark in my memory of my college Pychology class.

    • privateye2500 profile image

      privateye2500 9 years ago from Canada, USA, London

      What is the meaning of life? The purpose of existence? How do we, as humans, find happiness here on Earth?

      IMO - to ENJOY each day here as much as possible by doing whatever it is that makes you happy - so long as whatever that is does not hurt other people.

      Plain and simple.

    • braincandy profile image

      braincandy 9 years ago

      I had no idea there was another article on hubpages about Maslow when I wrote my own. Maslow's studies are facinating!

    • profile image

      Shadowkobun 9 years ago

      Have you read any of,Dr.Wayne Dyer's books? He's a fan of Maslow.

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 10 years ago from New Brunswick

      Maslow makes sense.

    • raymondphilippe profile image

      Raymond Philippe 10 years ago from The Netherlands

      On my way to self actualization. But still got some miles to make. ;-)Great hub

    • cgull8m profile image

      cgull8m 10 years ago from North Carolina

      Good Post Maddie, very informative.

    • Prince Maak profile image

      Prince Maak 10 years ago from Just Above the EARTH and below the SKY

      Good Hub Maddie.