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Understanding Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Updated on September 14, 2012

Simple Hierarchy

There was a debate in the psychologic world in the early 20th century. Different psychologists claimed people needed to do different things to become happy or to reach their full potential. For example, psychoanalysts claimed the fulfilment of individuals would be in satisfaction while behaviorists described the importance was in physiological needs with food, sleep, and sex.

One psychotherapist considered the question with a new approach. He examined human experience by looking at the things that are most important to us. These include love, hope, faith, spirituality, individuality, and existence. After pondering the question and his observations, he developed a theory called the Hierarchy of Needs. This theory is used openly in psychology and sociology today, though it is also popular in marketing. Psychology has proven that not everyone goes up the pyramid level by level. Sociology believes in the pyramid while marketing focuses on the heirarchy of needs to sell more products.

Think of a pyramid. There is a large layer on the bottom, the base that holds the rest up. This base must be strong and solid for the rest of the layers to be built on. Much like a pyramid, the bottom layer is the base of what humans need in life. To reach the next layer of the pyramid, an individual must fulfill every need on the bottom layer. This might seem a little difficult since there are eight layers. Yet some individuals have reached the highest level that a human can become and they have been the best they can be.

Level One: Physiological

The base level of the Hierarchy of Needs is known as a deficiency need. If one of these needs are lacking, then the entire pyramid colapses and goes back to this stage to rebuild. In this level exists air, food, drink, sleep, warmth, and exercise. It is also debated that sex should be in this area as well.

Level Two: Safety

This level deals with security, having the individual feel safe. They must have stability and shelter to feel comfortable. Also in this area consists of feeling fine money-wise and in employment.

Level Three: Love and Belongingness

This is the social level. Here is where society begins to exist in the pyramid structure and influence the individual. On the third level, individuals focus on acceptance in society and enjoying friendships. They also help their relationships and enjoy intimacy.

Level Four: Self-Esteem

It is interesting that Maslow placed the self-esteem area above love and belongingness. Perhaps he knew that relationships should be over ourselves. Here lives our achievements, what we are proud of. Our recognition of ourselves, the ability to view ourselves from a different perspective. Also, there is respect for others and ourselves.

Level Five: Cognitive

Once the lower four levels of deficiency needs are fulfilled and met to our satisfaction, we can move on to the growth needs. These needs make us better, improve us as a person. Cognitive stands as learning mainly. This is where we focus our knowledge and understanding. When we branch out to further educate ourselves, we have reached the cognitive level.

Level Six: Aesthetic

After focusing on our education, Maslow placed aesthetic in the growth levels. Though this might seem more linked to love and belongingness based off of society, aesthetic arts should be focused after our education. Here exists beauty which involves art and beauty. Also hidden in this level consists of order and symmetry.

Level Seven: Self-Actualization

For years, self-actualization was the top level that a person could ever reach. It was believed to be the area where someone could finally reach their full potential in life. They have gone through each of the levels and completed them to their satisfaction. Now is the time for them to focus on their purpose in life, to push themselves to the limit.

Level Eight: Self-Transcendence

Near the end of his life, Maslow added the eighth level of the pyramid. Above self-fulfullment exists self-transcendence. The highest level now, an individual focuses on helping others. In helping people, they connect with something outside of themselves in aiding others. They feel as if they are apart of something bigger than themselves and reach a new level of being human.

Who?

Abraham Maslow was bron in New York City as the eldest of seven children. Growing in a Jewish household, his parents had high expectations and forced him to study law until 1928. At this point, he decided to take his life into his own hands and studied psychology instead. During the same year, he went against his parents wishes again to marry his cousin. Maslow worked under Harry Harlow (known for his work with primates) and later with Alfred Adler as his mentor.

Comments

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    • THEmikeLO profile image

      THEmikeLO 

      5 years ago

      Great hub! Normally while trying to teach Maslow's hierarchy of needs people make it much too complicated, but you did a wonderful job of keeping it simple yet informative

    • levelwriter profile image

      levelwriter 

      5 years ago

      Awesome topic, I've always been curious about psychology. Maslow's pyramid may not be genius work but it is a good break down of basic thought and it's very insightful!

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 

      5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      I obviously don't mean any 'life threatening' criticism about the Lidl; it's talking examples.

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 

      5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      I was at the Lidl today. They have posters now saying they have best prices, food tastes like home, and the staff are friendly. The posters show these (more or less, I have not memorized) vertically.

      If you think about importance in vertical arrangement - which might be a bit primitive (if I stack books, it could be for no priority) - which would you consider less important (vertical arrangement has the implication of the 'higher levels').

      If you don't care if the staff would be friendly, you might as well have ordinary shopping for a life-threatening endeavor. If you don't care for the taste, you might eat tasteless pulp. If you don't care for the price, pay a million for a loaf.

      Maslow pyramid is hardly a genius work. :)

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 

      5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Maybe you could like this one on language and thought (I wrote them a bit 'at the spur', they need a final edit, but are legible ;)

      http://teresapelka.com/2011/05/09/david-bohm-and-d...

      This one is more academic; would have never been possible without verbal expression

      http://feedbackandlanguage.com/

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 

      5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Well, non-verbal language would have never occurred to anyone without language - 'non', 'verbal', and 'language' are all words. Verbal expression is the primary form of language to me, not a new or secondary form.

      I am much unconvinced about the idea to connect without talking - would you imagine an 'organoleptic hello'? That could make one pretty aloof ;)

      (joking, again)

    • lburmaster profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lenau 

      5 years ago from Houston, TX

      We don't need to talk to connect with other individuals so it is an addition in education. You are learning a new form of language by expressing yourself through words.

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 

      5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      @Iburmaster

      You mean anyone learning American, for example, should be 'talking with you' flailing? ;)

      (I'm joking, again, may this be clear)

    • lburmaster profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lenau 

      5 years ago from Houston, TX

      Cognitive would be learning another lanugage. However, communicating with other's should be on the base level, such as with hand signals.

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 

      5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      @Iburmaster,

      Just curious, would language belong anywhere, and if yes, what level according to you?

    • lburmaster profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lenau 

      5 years ago from Houston, TX

      The first two levels must exist. Air, food, water, safety, clothes. Then you can begin working on a different level. Some go to love and belongingness, cognition, or self-esteem. It is different for each person.

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 

      5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      I'm quite distanced as for other's relationships - fare as you please, the matter is individual, also when it involves two individuals. Routine has been statistically a ruthless killer of romance, let's say.

      I still don't understand the 'broken sequence' thing. Something has to exist first; only then it could be broken. Maslow pyramid is a construct. Saying 'there is a broken sequence', one would be a bit like saying, 'this buffalo needs its wing healed' ;)

    • lburmaster profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lenau 

      5 years ago from Houston, TX

      Really? Normally I do have sex in my routine and many individuals I know have it planned in their routine. Yes, the sequence is broken. Some people jump up a level or two without any signals. It's why psychologists don't usually use this theory.

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 

      5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Excuse me, I was joking - treating sex physiologically, you have something like a routine, like walking the dog or, traveling, remembering not to leave your socks in the washbasin; it's ...ridiculous.

      I don't see anything of a broken existence in the possibly non-existence of such an approach in some majority of humans - you're saying the sequence is broken with every individual.

    • lburmaster profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lenau 

      5 years ago from Houston, TX

      Psychologists have proven that the sequence does not technically exist and is broken with every individual. There are some people who have the first two levels then jump up to cognitive. When it comes to this pyramid, nothing is set in stone and each level can be moved, except some of the base needs.

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 

      5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Whatever happens with women all the time - as you say - there have to exceptions: I literally don't understand the separateness of relationships and self-esteem. :)

      Physiological sex? Could that be the matter of ordering the sequence - getting up, walking the dog... ;)

    • lburmaster profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lenau 

      5 years ago from Houston, TX

      A person can have a relationship, but poor self-esteem. It happens with women all the time. As stated, sexual activity is debatable on that level. Some consider sex on the physiological level, and some do not.

    • teresapelka profile image

      Teresa Pelka 

      5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      I do not see much sense in trying to build a pyramid for human needs - Egyptians did a job good enough building their structures ;)

      Sex activity as a physiological need, more, at the bottom of the pyramid, is absurd - would the implication be that one couldn't read or write without sex activity?

      Maslow pyramid doesn't have language. A human being could need to help others, but the human wouldn't need language?

      I also don't understand why make relationships and self-esteem separate levels.

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