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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory: Pyramid and Explanation

Maslow hierarchy of needs

Maslow Hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory proposed by Abraham Maslow in his paper “The Theory of Human Motivation”, and later fully expressed in his book “Motivation and Personality”.

According to Maslow, individuals are motivated by unsatisfied needs. As one need is satisfied, individuals develop other needs which are of the same level or the next level. Maslow proposed that human needs can be classified into five levels

  1. Physiological – Lowest Level
  2. Safety
  3. Social
  4. Esteem
  5. Self Actualization – Highest Level

Maslow depicted the hierarchy of these needs in the form of a Pyramid, with Physiological needs at the bottom to the Self Actualization at the top.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs


The hierarchy of these needs are rightly depicted in the form of a pyramid, as the number of people with the corresponding needs decreases from bottom to top. i.e.. all humans have physiological needs, but the number of people with safety needs are less than number of people with physiological needs. The same goes till the top of the hierarchy.

According to Maslow, a person can ascend to a higher level of needs only if his needs at the bottom levels are fulfilled.

Now let us look at each of these needs in detail.

Physiological Needs:

Physiological needs are the basic needs without which one cannot survive. Eg; Air, Water, Food, Sleep, Warmth etc.

Safety Needs :

Safety needs include safety in different aspects such as physical, financial, environmental, emotional etc. For Eg: Free from injury, Job security, good health, safety of your family etc.

Social Needs :

Social needs include need for love, affection, friendship, family, association etc.

Esteem Needs :

This is the need for appreciation and respect. People want to sense that they are valued by others and they are making a valuable contribution to the world. Further, these needs are of two types 1) Internal Esteem Needs ( Self respect, confidence, feeling of accomplishment etc) and 2) External Esteem needs (recognition, appreciation, power, admiration etc)

Self-Actualization Needs :

Self-Actualization need is the urge to achieve or realize your full potential. It is wanting to achieve what you are truly capable of.

What is Self-Actualization ?

Maslow describes Self-Actualization as “It may be loosely described as the full use and exploitation of talents, capabilities, potentialities, etc. Such people seem to be fulfilling themselves and to be doing the best that they are capable of doing… They are people who have developed or are developing to the full stature of which they capable.”

Examples of these needs are : Growth in life, Self fulfillment, Morality, Creativity, Aesthetics, Lack of prejudice, self awareness, less concerned with others opinions, acceptance of facts etc.

Maslow says that, for people the highest possible motivation to work is not security or money. The highest Motivation is a chance to really contribute and use their skills. He calls this as Self Actualization. 


Check the other Motivation Theories .

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