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Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

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Lisa Hammett                Psychology

Maslow’s Hierarchy

Of Needs.


In the 1950’s a psychologist called Abraham Maslow conducted research on the understanding of human motivation. In 1954 he suggested there were two sets of human needs, one set related to basic survival needs such as homeostasis, physiological needs and safety.  The second set he believed focused on self –actualisation, this particular need is where he thought an individual realised their full potential.  (Cardwell et al, 2000).

On the basis of his theory he arranged these various needs in a hierarchy, starting with the basic survival needs and at the very top the self-actualisation need. (As pictured below).

Maslow’s original Hierarchy of needs.



He suggested that each need had to be satisfied first before moving on to the next stage of the hierarchy, and the higher up the hierarchy an individual went, the more difficult it was to satisfy the needs, he suggested this was because the higher up the hierarchy an individual went the needs became psychological rather than physiological, they also became long term needs rather than short term needs. (Cardwell et al, 2000).

 Maslow suggested that many individuals would never reach our full potential and would therefore never reach self-actualisation.  

How the Hierarchy Works.

Each individual starts at the bottom of the hierarchy and has to satisfy each level before they can move to the next level of the hierarchy.

Physiological needs: - these are the basic needs such as, oxygen, shelter, food, thirst, sleep, sex etc, these basic needs must be meet in order to move up to the next level of the hierarchy.

Safety needs: - the next level that has to be satisfied is the safety needs, these include, a need to feel physically safe and secure, security in a job, protection and stability.

Love & Belongingness: - the next needs that have to be satisfied are love and belongingness, this is where an individual wants to be accepted and belong to a family or friends, to be loved and to love someone in return.  

Esteem needs: - this is where an individual has to satisfy their own self esteem, where they desire to be respected by others, to be given recognition in their job etc.

Self-actualisation:- this is the final need to be satisfied; this is where an individual realizes their full potential and seeks self fulfilment.

(Class notes).  (Cardwell et al, 2000).  

In 1970 his hierarchy of needs was revised to include Cognitive needs (an individuals need to know and understand and needing to search for a meaning) and Aesthetic needs (the need for beauty in arts and nature etc and the need for order) he place these needs above the esteem needs.

(Class Notes).  (Haralambos & Rice, 2002).



How Maslow’s Hierarchy works

 In everyday life.

Maslow’s hierarchy can be applied to a number of situations in everyday life, in the work placement, in schools etc to encourage motivation.  

Applying Maslow’s hierarchy in the work place.

Physiological needs: - this level can be met by providing a place to eat and drinks, ensuring the workers have breaks, have reasonable working hours and providing a comfortable working environment, bonuses to boost their wages, etc.

Safety needs: - this level can be met by providing a safe working environment, job security, pensions, health insurance etc.

Love and Belongingness needs:- this level can be met by involving the individual in decision making, so that they feel part of the team, encouraging friendliness amongst the workers, introduce team building activities outside of work hours e.g. nights out, sports activities etc.

Esteem needs: - this level can be met by praising the individual for their work, treating them in a professional friendly manner, offering the chance of promotion, etc.

Self-actualisation:- this level can be met by the individual reaching their own goals in the workplace, encouraging the individual to be creative, by encouraging the individual to take promotions, encourage training scheme’s, etc.

(Class Notes).

Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy in a School.

Physiological needs: - this level can be met by providing canteens and snack machines for food and drink, providing a comfortable environment for the students to work in etc.

Safety needs: - this level can be met be providing a safe environment within the school, providing a confidential support network to deal with bullying and abuse, by providing a counselling service for the pupils who may have problems at home and by providing security measures so that people cannot enter the school without authorisation etc.

Love and Belongingness needs: - this level can be met by making the students wear a uniform so that it encourages them to be part of a group, providing a wide range of school activities and after school activities and encouraging them to take part and by encouraging the teachers to be friendly and approachable with the students.

Esteem needs: - this level can be met by encouraging and praising the pupils with a reward scheme for good attendance, behaviour and level of work, giving constructive criticism, etc

Self- actualisation: - this level can be achieved by encouraging them to do well at school, to work to the level that are capable of, by providing careers advice, and supporting and advising them on the choices available to them once leaving school etc.

(Class Notes).

Evaluation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

However the question still remains, would the individuals still reach their self-actualisation even if the all these measures were put in place.  No matter how flexible and accommodating the workplace and school can be to encourage the individual to reach every level, they cannot predict events that may occur in the individuals personal and home life.  

(Class Notes).

Self-actualisation is the hardest level to reach; an individual may think they have reached their full potential but may often move their own goals and desires.  It is often seen as the weakest level of needs, this is because it is the most unachievable level of needs.

 It can be argued that the basic needs should not be categorised into just one group, a person’s need to breathe, eat and drink is more important than sex, an individual would not die if they did not have sex, whereas they would if they were starved of oxygen, food or water.

Maslow’s theory that an individual has to reach all other levels to be able to reach self-actualisation may also come under criticism, artists, writers, celebrities etc, often face poverty and hardship, they often do not meet any of their lower needs first to achieve their self-actualisation.  

However, despite the many criticisms of Maslow’s Hierarchy theory, it is widely used in many workplaces and other institutions for the purpose of motivation, and although it maybe argued that an individual may not necessarily have to fulfil their needs in the particular order that Maslow suggests, everyone has those needs in place.      

(Class Notes).  (Cardwell et al, 2000).


  • Clark, L, Cardwell, M, Meldrum, C.  (2000). Psychology for A Level.  Second edition.  London.  HarperCollins Publisher LTd.
  •   Class Notes.

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