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Does evidence support Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?

Does evidence support Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?

Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs (shown below) is a popular concept and is often taught in basic psychology courses, and often less objectively taught in Business and Marketing courses.

A common problem with Maslow's Hierarchy is the difficulty of testing the theory and the ordering and definition of needs.

The Wikipedia article and most general sources about the topic do not discuss experimental tests regarding the Hierarchy nor am I familiar with any despite the theory's popularity.

What research exists that investigates Maslow's Hierarchy directly?


  • Mahmoud A. Wahba, Lawrence G. Bridwell, Maslow reconsidered: A review of research on the need hierarchy theory (1976), or a free pdf scan here

Its abstract says:

The uncritical acceptance of Maslow's need hierarchy theory despite the lack of empirical evidence is discussed and the need for a review of recent empirical evidence is emphasized. A review of ten factor-analytic and three ranking studies testing Maslow's theory showed only partial support for the concept of need hierarchy. A large number of cross-sectional studies showed no clear evidence for Maslow's deprivation/domination proposition except with regard to self-actualization. Longitudinal studies testing Maslow's gratification/activation proposition showed no support, and the limited support received from cross-sectional studies is questionable due to numerous measurement problems. The difficulties with testing the theory are discussed and the conceptual, methodological, and measurement problems of the studies reviewed are detailed. The implications of the findings and future directions for research are outlined.


Neher (1991, FREE PDF) summarises and critically evaluates the theory. From the abstract:

This critique of Maslow's theory of motivation examines all of its major components. The theory is summarized and its basic propositions are analyzed in the light of internal logic, other relevant theories, and related research. This examination points up many deficiencies in Maslow's theory, which enjoys wide acceptance, especially among humanistic psychologists. Suggestions are made regarding modifications to the theory that would remedy many of its more serious problems but at the same time preserve its perceptive insights.

References

  • Neher, A. (1991). Maslow's theory of motivation: A critique. Journal of Humanistic Psycholgoy, 31, 3. FREE PDF

TL;DR: tons of support (and complications) at each level. One sequence can't fit all (it didn't claim to), but it makes sense in general, and so do the exceptions, and so do other motive models.

Check out Kenrick and colleagues' (2010) recent article. Kenrick is a prominent evolutionary psychologist; he and his colleagues have "renovated" Maslow's motive hierarchy based on a little bit of everything, including evolutionary, biological, personality, social, and cultural psychology. It's got some speculative theoretical claims of its own, but offers a deep review of empirical research too, and attempts to synthesize them. I'll just quote some of the parts that reference other research here (without vouching that all of it is necessarily original or empirical) to give you a sense of where else you might look beyond this article itself, and how Kenrick and colleagues summarize their basic findings directly. They go much further than direct summary though, so as other answers here have noted, there are many alternatives to Maslow's (1943) original theory, including this one!

Kenrick and colleagues' (2010) model

An updated hierarchy of fundamental human motives… integrates ideas from life-history development with Maslow's classic hierarchy… adds reproductive goals, in the order they are likely to first appear developmentally… [and] depicts the later developing goal systems as overlapping with, rather than completely replacing, earlier developing systems. Once a goal system has developed, its activation will be triggered whenever relevant environmental cues are salient. [Emphasis added.]

The overlapping triangles… explicitly reflect… that later developmental needs and goals add to, rather than replace, existing ones…

Summary of Developmental Level of Analysis

Developmental… life-history theory suggest[s]… revisions to Maslow's original hierarchy… Three later-developing reproduction-focused goals of mate acquisition, mate retention, and parental care… different motives in the hierarchy continue to operate alongside those that develop later in life… reflected visually by the overlapping triangles… Important individual differences in motivational priorities… result from interactions between development and current environment…

Conclusion

Developments [in] evolutionary biology, anthropology, and psychology… suggested… structural modifications to Maslow's classic hierarchy of human motives… The ultimate functions of behaviors and of life-history development [suggest] explicit inclusion of motivational levels linked to mating and reproduction. Reproduction… is not ultimately about self-gratification, but involves a considerable diversion of resources away from selfish goals and toward other[s]… Life-history trade-offs also [imply] that later developing motive systems never fully replace earlier ones… they continue to coexist, ready to be activated depending on current opportunities and threats in the environment, in interaction with individual differences. Thus… the ongoing dynamic interaction between internal motives and their functional links to ongoing environmental threats and opportunities.

See also Table 1. How Different Motivational Systems Are Triggered by Proximate Cues and Individual Differences Linked to Fundamentally Important Threats and Opportunities.

Obvious critique: some healthy people don't want kids, a mate, or even sex. I bet Kenrick would call them rare expressions of individual variations that society maintains to round itself out in adaptive or reactive ways. I've also covered some other perspectives in this answer to a related question of social needs.

General themes from the rest of the article:

  • Support for existence of many underlying mechanisms associated with each level
    • Some mechanisms are not definitionally tied to any one level.
  • Developmental, sociocultural, and individual differences in the order of emergence
    • Maslow (1943) anticipated this, and presented his ordering as a general trend, not an inflexible, absolute sequence.

References

Kenrick, D. T., Griskevicius, V., Neuberg, S. L., & Schaller, M. (2010). Renovating the pyramid of needs contemporary extensions built upon ancient foundations. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5(3), 292-314. Available online, URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3161123/. Retrieved January 30, 2014.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-396. Available online, URL: http://downloads.joomlacode.org/trackeritem/5/8/7/58799/AbrahamH.Maslow-ATheoryOfHumanMotivation.pdf. Retrieved January 30, 2014.


The hierarchy of needs is an observation made by Maslow. It's generally assumed as the model to go by because most people can agree with the list and its order. Therefor it's no longer just a hypothesis, it's a theory.

A quick Google search brings me to this online book: http://www.scribd.com/doc/8703989/Maslows-Hierarchy-of-Needs-A-Critical-Analysis

That you can read for free. I glanced several pages of it and it's basically a critical look at the model, Maslow's life and the implications of the model on the individual and society as a whole.

On page 79, an update to the model is proposed:


While many consider Maslow's hierarchy of needs to be pseudoscientific, there is a paper which suggests there is empirical support for the theory.

Maslow's hierarchy of basic human needs provides a major theoretical framework in nursing science. The purpose of this study was to empirically test Maslow's need theory, specifically at the levels of physiological and security needs, using a hologeistic comparative method. Thirty cultures taken from the 60 cultural units in the Health Relations Area Files (HRAF) Probability Sample were found to have data available for examining hypotheses about thermoregulatory (physiological) and protective (security) behaviors practiced prior to sleep onset. The findings demonstrate there is initial worldwide empirical evidence to support Maslow's need hierarchy (Davis-Sharts, 1986).

References

Davis-Sharts, J. (1986). An empirical test of Maslow's theory of need hierarchy using hologeistic comparison by statistical sampling. Advances in Nursing Science, 9(1), 58-72. doi: 10.1097/00012272-198610000-00008


Updating Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Emily is a fact checker, editor, and writer who has expertise in psychology content.

Anyone who has ever taken a psychology class probably has at least a basic understanding of Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Maslow suggested that needs at the base of the pyramid, which include things such as food, water, and sleep, must be met before people can move on to needs higher up on the hierarchy.  

After fulfilling these fundamental needs, people move on to the need for safety and security, then belonging and love, and then esteem. Finally, once all these lower-level needs are met, Maslow suggested that people move on to the need at the peak of the pyramid, which is known as self-actualization.

A 1976 paper by Wahba and Bridwell suggested that the uncritical acceptance of Maslow's hierarchy needed to be addressed by additional research. Their review of the research available at the time found little support for the accuracy of the hierarchy.   More recent research has offered some support for Maslow’s original hierarchy, but many suggest that the theory might be in need of an update to better reflect the needs of modern life.


Overview of Needs

Maslow's hierarchy is most often displayed as a pyramid. The lowest levels of the pyramid are made up of the most basic needs, while the most complex needs are at the top of the pyramid.

Needs at the bottom of the pyramid are basic physical requirements including the need for food, water, sleep, and warmth. Once these lower-level needs have been met, people can move on to the next level of needs, which are for safety and security.

As people progress up the pyramid, needs become increasingly psychological and social. Soon, the need for love, friendship, and intimacy becomes important.

Further up the pyramid, the need for personal esteem and feelings of accomplishment take priority. Like Carl Rogers, Maslow emphasized the importance of self-actualization, which is a process of growing and developing as a person in order to achieve individual potential.

Deficiency Needs vs. Growth Needs

Maslow believed that these needs are similar to instincts and play a major role in motivating behavior.   Physiological, security, social, and esteem needs are deficiency needs, which arise due to deprivation. Satisfying these lower-level needs is important in order to avoid unpleasant feelings or consequences.

Maslow termed the highest level of the pyramid as growth needs. These needs don't stem from a lack of something, but rather from a desire to grow as a person.

While the theory is generally portrayed as a fairly rigid hierarchy, Maslow noted that the order in which these needs are fulfilled does not always follow this standard progression. For example, he noted that for some individuals, the need for self-esteem is more important than the need for love. For others, the need for creative fulfillment may supersede even the most basic needs.


  • Existential Psychology (Jean Paul Sartre, Rollo May)
  • Frankl՚s Logotherapy
  • Positive Psychology (Martin Seligman)

From the 1920s through the 1960s, behaviourism dominated psychology in the United States. Eventually, however, psychologists began to move away from strict behaviourism. Many became increasingly interested in cognition, a term used to describe all the mental processes involved in acquiring, storing, and using knowledge.

Such processes include perception, memory, thinking, problem solving, imagining, and language. This shift in emphasis toward cognition had such a profound influence on psychology that it has often been called the cognitive revolution. The psychological study of cognition became known as cognitive psychology.


Hierarchy of Needs: The Five Levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

and his subsequent book Motivation and Personality. This hierarchy suggests that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs.

This hierarchy is most often displayed as a pyramid. The lowest levels of the pyramid are made up of the most basic needs, while the more complex needs are located at the top of the pyramid. Needs at the bottom of the pyramid are basic physical requirements including the need for food, water, sleep, and warmth. Once these lower-level needs have been met, people can move on to the next level of needs, which are for safety and security.

s people progress up the pyramid, needs become increasingly psychological and social. Soon, the need for love, friendship, and intimacy become important. Further up the pyramid, the need for personal esteem and feelings of accomplishment take priority. Like Carl Rogers, Maslow emphasized the importance of self-actualization, which is a process of growing and developing as a person in order to achieve individual potential.

Types of Needs

Abraham Maslow believed that these needs are similar to instincts and play a major role in motivating behavior. Physiological, security, social, and esteem needs are deficiency needs (also known as D-needs), meaning that these needs arise due to deprivation. Satisfying these lower-level needs is important in order to avoid unpleasant feelings or consequences.

Maslow termed the highest-level of the pyramid as growth needs (also known as being needs or B-needs). Growth needs do not stem from a lack of something, but rather from a desire to grow as a person.

Five Levels of the Hierarchy of Needs

There are five different levels in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:


    These include the most basic needs that are vital to survival, such as the need for water, air, food, and sleep. Maslow believed that these needs are the most basic and instinctive needs in the hierarchy because all needs become secondary until these physiological needs are met.
    These include needs for safety and security. Security needs are important for survival, but they are not as demanding as the physiological needs. Examples of security needs include a desire for steady employment, health insurance, safe neighborhoods, and shelter from the environment.
    These include needs for belonging, love, and affection. Maslow considered these needs to be less basic than physiological and security needs. Relationships such as friendships, romantic attachments, and families help fulfill this need for companionship and acceptance, as does involvement in social, community, or religious groups.
    After the first three needs have been satisfied, esteem needs becomes increasingly important. These include the need for things that reflect on self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition, and accomplishment.
    This is the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Self-actualizing people are self-aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opinions of others, and interested fulfilling their potential.

Criticisms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

While some research showed some support for Maslow’s theories, most research has not been able to substantiate the idea of a needs hierarchy. Wahba and Bridwell reported that there was little evidence for Maslow’s ranking of these needs and even less evidence that these needs are in a hierarchical order.

Other criticisms of Maslow’s theory note that his definition of self-actualization is difficult to test scientifically. His research on self-actualization was also based on a very limited sample of individuals, including people he knew as well as biographies of famous individuals that Maslow believed to be self-actualized, such as Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. Regardless of these criticisms, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs represents part of an important shift in psychology. Rather than focusing on abnormal behavior and development, Maslow’s humanistic psychology was focused on the development of healthy individuals.

While there was relatively little research supporting the theory, hierarchy of needs is well-known and popular both in and out of psychology. In a study published in 2011, researchers from the University of Illinois set out to put the hierarchy to the test. What they discovered is that while fulfillment of the needs was strongly correlated with happiness, people from cultures all over the reported that self-actualization and social needs were important even when many of the most basic needs were unfulfilled.

What Is Self-Actualization?

What exactly is self-actualization? Located at the peak of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy, he described this high-level need in the following way:

“What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization…It refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.”

While the theory is generally portrayed as a fairly rigid hierarchy, Maslow noted that the order in which these needs are fulfilled does not always follow this standard progression. For example, he notes that for some individuals, the need for self-esteem is more important than the need for love. For others, the need for creative fulfillment may supersede even the most basic needs.

Characteristics of Self-Actualized People

In addition to describing what is meant by self-actualization in his theory, Maslow also identified some of the key characteristics of self-actualized people:

  • Acceptance and Realism: Self-actualized people have realistic perceptions of themselves, others and the world around them.
  • Problem-centering: Self-actualized individuals are concerned with solving problems outside of themselves, including helping others and finding solutions to problems in the external world. These people are often motivated by a sense of personal responsibility and ethics.
  • Spontaneity: Self-actualized people are spontaneous in their internal thoughts and outward behavior. While they can conform to rules and social expectations, they also tend to be open and unconventional.
  • Autonomy and Solitude: Another characteristic of self-actualized people is the need for independence and privacy. While they enjoy the company of others, these individuals need time to focus on developing their own individual potential.
  • Continued Freshness of Appreciation: Self-actualized people tend to view the world with a continual sense of appreciation, wonder and awe. Even simple experiences continue to be a source of inspiration and pleasure. : Individuals who are self-actualized often have what Maslow termed peak experiences, or moments of intense joy, wonder, awe and ecstasy. After these experiences, people feel inspired, strengthened, renewed or transformed.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation, Psychological Review 50, 370-96.

Maslow, A.H. (1943). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper.

Maslow, A. (1970). Motivation and personality (2nd ed.). New York: Harper & Row.


Why is Maslow's hierarchy of needs important?

Maslow's Hierarchical Theory of Human Needs. In short, Abraham Maslow's theory argues that humans have a series of needs, some of which must be met before they can turn their attention toward others. Certain universal needs are the most pressing, while more &ldquoacquired&rdquo emotions are of secondary importance.

Likewise, why is Maslow's hierarchy of needs important to nursing? Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is in every nurses' toolbox for setting patient care priorities. Applying this model to nursing practice would suggest that when nurses do not feel that their work environment needs are being met, they will be less motivated and less likely to progress to the higher-level functions.

Also asked, why is Maslow hierarchy of needs important to managers?

One of the most popular needs theories is Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory. As a manager, you can account for the safety needs of your employees by providing safe working conditions, secure compensation (such as a salary) and job security, which is especially important in a bad economy.


New Research Explores Accuracy of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Apparently, Abraham Maslow was right, according to a new study. University of Illinois researchers tested Maslow’s theory and discovered that people actually do feel happier when their basic needs are met. “Anyone who has ever completed a psychology class has heard of Abraham Maslow and his theory of needs,” said professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Illinois, Ed Diener, and lead author of the study. “But the nagging question has always been: Where is the proof? Students learn the theory, but scientific research backing this theory is rarely mentioned.” The researchers used data collected over five years from over 150 countries. The information gathered pertained to positive and negative emotions resulting from various basic needs, including food, shelter, money, safety, respect, social relations, and autonomy.

The study revealed that the happiest people were those who reported feeling fulfilled in most of those areas. But, contrary to Maslow, the sequence in which their “higher” and “lower” needs were met did not influence their sense of satisfaction or joy. The researchers also discovered that those who felt their life was positive did so more when their most basic needs of food, shelter, and money were met. The higher needs, autonomy, respect, and social support, were linked to a feeling of joy. “Thus life satisfaction is not just an individual affair, but depends substantially also on the quality of life of one’s fellow citizens,” Diener said.

“Our findings suggest that Maslow’s theory is largely correct. In cultures all over the world the fulfillment of his proposed needs correlates with happiness,” said Diener. “However, an important departure from Maslow’s theory is that we found that a person can report having good social relationships and self-actualization even if their basic needs and safety needs are not completely fulfilled.” He added, “Another revision of his theory is that we found that different needs produce different types of well-being.”

Yates, D. (2011, June 30). Researchers look around the world for ingredients of happiness. Medical News Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/230109.php

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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Kayleigh wade

I honestly don’t get why sex would be so important on the list. Wouldn’t that be higher on the pyramid and be up there with things like relationships and the like? If anyone can enlighten me I’d be happy to hear it.

Mikecassidy

@kayleigh- You need to remember the Four F’s of evolution: Fighting, Fleeing, Feeding, and F… fornication. Those are primal instincts. Society is to blame for everything else that’s attached to sex that’s beyond reproduction.

That’s my point of view anyway. If it had remained a reproductive act and nothing more, there would be a lot less hand-wringing over sex and relationships. We sure made it more complicated than it ever had to be.

Gimme my basic needs and I have energy left to concentrate on better things and thereby be more productive and also have time for leisure.This definitely means a happier ME!

This is the first time that I have ever seen something that I learned about in the college classroom be proven to be true in real life! Lots of money to spend to finally see it but it happened! )

J.anderson

luxuries may nit give you the best of feelings but to survive and to feel containment te basic things are necessary or you will definitely feel like you’re missing out on things,thereby breeding negativity and maybe even jealousy.

Mason

I have always found this to be so interesting. There is only so much happiness and joy that you can get out of life when you are hungry or in need of shelter. It goes without saying that the better you are provided for in this manner then the more meaningful that your life will and can be. Where the items fall in the hierarchy are inconsequential. When you are fed and provided for both physically and mentally, your life is sure to be a higher quality then it would be if these needs were being ignored and not met.

Harold K

the availability of basic things definitely makes life easier and less things to worry about.and less of worrying most often leads to happiness because we are that much more able to concentrate on and achieve things.

MICHELLE

I fully agree with this theory.Your mind is free,you’re not struggling for smaller(basic) things and can invest energy to further improve your life and living standards.

Y. Knowles

The hierarchy is just a guideline really. It’s not biological-it’s psychological. Human beings don’t vary an awful lot in terms of their biology, but in psychology, some will take that triangle and turn it nothing more than an abstract art piece. They will see the priorities completely differently from Maslow or these researchers.

Observations are opinions of one man or woman and one only, based upon their own interpretation of the data before them.

The hierarchy reflects our core and where the most basic of instincts and needs lie for us. Because of that it applies quite accurately to the majority and those it won’t apply to are a very small number indeed. It details what we need to survive and what degree of importance we align with each need. Its usability is timeless, as those researchers discovered.

Huey Gossford

I think that achieving satisfaction levels of the ones higher than basic needs-and maintaining that-is impossible. We can be satisfied with a job and a roof over their heads. Our happiness however with our lives encompasses many more wants and desires. Those are very difficult to juggle simultaneously without at least one falling into disarray.

I feel the best we can do is accept we have to neglect one aspect of our needs while we nurture another.

@Kayleigh if you don’t understand why sex is so high on the list, you’re doing it wrong ) Pleasure, affection, and being needed/wanted are basic human needs. Have you never felt like your skin was screaming for a little touch?

Sydney

I would be intrigued to look directly into the lowest levels of the hierarchy of needs, specifically in third world countries and impoverished areas. Even more specifically in children! I wouldn’t be surprised to see love and belonging bringing more satisfaction then meeting physiological and safety needs. For instance, the love that a mother gives to her child (I’m speaking generally here) could provide security for that child. What are other people’s thoughts?


Painters starving in attics

Likewise, many of the best and most creative painters and poets – who Maslow would describe as self-actualising – were in fact starving in attics when they did their best work.

Where does Vincent van Gogh sit on the hierarchy of needs?

And we can all think of examples of filmmakers, musicians and other artists whose creativity dried up when they hit the big time. Years ago I worked as a music journalist. I discovered that many rock bands would deliver a brilliant first album, score a huge contract, then wallow self-indulgently in the studio for album number two. Many never got the opportunity to make a third record.

Jim Clemmer and Art MacNeil make an important criticism of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory in their book “Leadership skills for Every Manager” (ISBN 0861889630). The book is out of print. But you may find a copy of it in a university library (If you’ve got it and no longer want it, get in touch with me).


Updating Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Emily is a fact checker, editor, and writer who has expertise in psychology content.

Anyone who has ever taken a psychology class probably has at least a basic understanding of Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Maslow suggested that needs at the base of the pyramid, which include things such as food, water, and sleep, must be met before people can move on to needs higher up on the hierarchy.  

After fulfilling these fundamental needs, people move on to the need for safety and security, then belonging and love, and then esteem. Finally, once all these lower-level needs are met, Maslow suggested that people move on to the need at the peak of the pyramid, which is known as self-actualization.

A 1976 paper by Wahba and Bridwell suggested that the uncritical acceptance of Maslow's hierarchy needed to be addressed by additional research. Their review of the research available at the time found little support for the accuracy of the hierarchy.   More recent research has offered some support for Maslow’s original hierarchy, but many suggest that the theory might be in need of an update to better reflect the needs of modern life.


Why Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Matters to You

Abraham Maslow created a motivational theory in psychology named Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The pyramid is based on his biographical research of people he considered to have achieved self-actualization. Self-Actualization is the highest level in his original pyramid. His theory is you begin at the bottom level of the pyramid. Once those initial needs are met, you move to the next level of the pyramid.

Deficiency needs make up the first four levels of the pyramid. In other words, if you lack water (Physiological Need) you want water and will do what you need to get it. The final level, self-actualization, is a growth need. You want to achieve this level once you have fulfilled the other levels to your satisfaction.

A person does not complete a level 100 percent before moving on to the next. None of the levels work in a vacuum and all impact the others. You can even be motivated by the needs from multiple levels at once.

However, while it is possible to work simultaneously on your needs in different parts of the pyramid, it makes the task exponentially harder. For example, if you have just lost your job, it can be really hard to be the best spouse you can be because you are preoccupied with being unemployed (Safety Need). Likewise, if you are homeless (Physiological Need), it is extremely difficult to also work on the two uppermost levels – self-esteem and the desire to become the most one can be (Self-Actualization).

Original Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid

Source of Image – https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

How the Hierarchy of Needs Impacts You

Once you see the pyramid, it makes perfect sense why when one area of your life is in shambles, other areas you want to work on fall by the wayside. And, while we can all strive to live up to our potential as human beings, there will be times when it will be much easier than others.

Instead of beating ourselves up when we experience a setback in one area of our life, we need to be aware of how this will impact the other areas of our life. Once we realize the interconnected nature of the pyramid and the impact it has on everything else, we can learn to give ourselves grace when setbacks occur.

If we extend this same understanding to all the people we love and encounter, it is much easier to understand why people do things and react in certain ways. If your personal security is threatened, it WILL be hard to foster a sense of connection, etc.

By working to address any unmet needs, we will be able to work our way up the ladder to self-actualization. Knowing, of course, that life WILL happen and we should be prepared to play Chutes and Ladders on the pyramid. Constantly moving from one level to the next, always with the goal of continuing to the top. The more resources you have at your disposal, the quicker and easier the trip will be.

Expanded Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow continued to refine his pyramid over the course of several decades, eventually adding three more levels to the original (see graphic below). His expanded Hierarchy of Needs includes these levels:

  • Cognitive (knowledge and understanding, curiosity, and need for meaning)
  • Aesthetic (appreciation and search for beauty)
  • Transcendence (motivated by values outside the personal self)

Personally, I love his concept of focusing on what motivates people in a positive manner, always striving to be all they can be. What do you think? Does this pyramid concept make sense to you and your life? Please leave me a note in the comments on your thoughts and experiences.

“Instead of focusing on psychopathology and what goes wrong with people, Maslow (1943) formulated a more positive account of human behavior which focused on what goes right. He was interested in human potential, and how we fulfill that potential.”

McLeod, S. A. (2017). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

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Overview of Needs

Maslow's hierarchy is most often displayed as a pyramid. The lowest levels of the pyramid are made up of the most basic needs, while the most complex needs are at the top of the pyramid.

Needs at the bottom of the pyramid are basic physical requirements including the need for food, water, sleep, and warmth. Once these lower-level needs have been met, people can move on to the next level of needs, which are for safety and security.

As people progress up the pyramid, needs become increasingly psychological and social. Soon, the need for love, friendship, and intimacy becomes important.

Further up the pyramid, the need for personal esteem and feelings of accomplishment take priority. Like Carl Rogers, Maslow emphasized the importance of self-actualization, which is a process of growing and developing as a person in order to achieve individual potential.

Deficiency Needs vs. Growth Needs

Maslow believed that these needs are similar to instincts and play a major role in motivating behavior.   Physiological, security, social, and esteem needs are deficiency needs, which arise due to deprivation. Satisfying these lower-level needs is important in order to avoid unpleasant feelings or consequences.

Maslow termed the highest level of the pyramid as growth needs. These needs don't stem from a lack of something, but rather from a desire to grow as a person.

While the theory is generally portrayed as a fairly rigid hierarchy, Maslow noted that the order in which these needs are fulfilled does not always follow this standard progression. For example, he noted that for some individuals, the need for self-esteem is more important than the need for love. For others, the need for creative fulfillment may supersede even the most basic needs.


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