This diagram shows Maslow's hierarchy of needs, represented as a pyramid
with the more primitive needs at the bottom.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the four lower levels are grouped together as deficiency needs associated with physiological needs, while the top level is termed growth needs associated with psychological needs. While deficiency needs must be met, growth needs are continually shaping behaviour. The basic concept is that the higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus once all the needs that are lower down in the pyramid are mainly or entirely satisfied. Growth forces create upward movement in the hierarchy, whereas regressive forces push prepotent needs further down the hierarchy.
The deficiency needs (also termed 'D-needs' by Maslow) are:
The physiological needs of the organism, those enabling homeostasis, take first precedence. These consist mainly of:
- the need to breathe
- the need to drink water
- the need to regulate homeostasis
- the need to eat
- the need to dispose of bodily wastes
If some needs are not fulfilled, a human's physiological needs take the highest priority. Physiological needs can control thoughts and behaviors, and can cause people to feel sickness, pain, and discomfort.
Maslow also places sexual activity in this category as bodily comfort, activity, exercise, etc. While several of these activities are important, many are not essential to survive.
When physiological needs are met, the need for safety will emerge. Safety and security rank above all other desires. These include:
- Physical security - safety from violence, delinquency, aggressions
- Security of employment
- Security of revenues and resources
- Moral and physiological security
- Family security
- Security of health
- Security of personal property against crime
Sometimes the desire for safety outweighs the requirement to satisfy physiological needs completely.
After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third layer of human needs is social. This involves emotionally-based relationships in general, such as:
- sexual intimacy
- having a supportive and communicative family
Humans generally need to feel belonging and acceptance, whether it comes from a large social group (clubs, office culture, religious groups, professional organizations, sports teams, gangs) or small social connections (family members, intimate partners, mentors, close colleagues, confidants). They need to love and be loved (sexually and non-sexually) by others. In the absence of these elements, many people become susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety, and depression. This need for belonging can often overcome the physiological and security needs, depending on the strength of the peer pressure. i.e an anorexic ignores the need to eat and the security of health for a feeling of belonging.
According to Maslow, all humans have a need to be respected, to have self-respect, and to respect others. People need to engage themselves in order to gain recognition and have an activity or activities that give the person a sense of contribution and self-value, be it in a profession or hobby. Imbalances at this level can result in low self-esteem, inferiority complexes, an inflated sense of self-importance or snobbishness. There are two levels to Esteem needs. The lower of the levels relates to elements like fame, respect, and glory. The higher level is contingent to concepts like confidence, competence, and achievement. The lower level is generally considered poor. It is dependent upon other people, or someone who needs to be reassured because of lower esteem. People with low esteem need respect from others. They may seek fame or glory, which again are dependent on others. However confidence, competence and achievement only need one person and everyone else is inconsequential to one's own success. (Steven Covey has written extensively on this subject.)
Maslow believed that humans had the need to increase their intelligence and thereby chase knowledge. Cognitive needs is the expression of the natural human need to learn, explore, discover, create, and perhaps even dissect in order to get a better understanding of the world around them.
Based on Maslow's beliefs, it is stated in the hierarchy that humans need beautiful imagery or something new and aesthetically pleasing in order to continue up towards Self-Actualization. Humans need to refresh themselves in the presence and beauty of nature while carefully absorbing and observing their surroundings to extract the beauty that the world has to offer.
Though the deficiency needs may be seen as "basic", and can be met and neutralized (i.e. they stop being motivators in one's life), self-actualization and transcendence are "being" or "growth needs" (also termed "B-needs"), i.e. they are enduring motivations or drivers of behaviour.
Self-actualization is the instinctual need of humans to make the most of their abilities and to strive to be the best they can.
- Self Actualization is the intrinsic growth of what is already in the organism, or more accurately, of what the organism is. (Psychological Review, 1949)
Maslow writes the following of self-actualizing people:
- They embrace the facts and realities of the world (including themselves) rather than denying or avoiding them.
- They are spontaneous in their ideas and actions.
- They are creative.
- They are interested in solving problems; this often includes the problems of others. Solving these problems is often a key focus in their lives.
- They feel a closeness to other people, and generally appreciate life.
- They have a system of morality that is fully internalized and independent of external authority.
- They judge others without prejudice, in a way that can be termed objective.
In short, self-actualization is reaching one's fullest potential.
At the top of the triangle, self-transcendence is also sometimes referred to as spiritual needs.
- Maslow believes that we should study and cultivate peak experiences as a way of providing a route to achieve personal growth, integration, and fulfillment. Peak experiences are unifying, and ego-transcending, bringing a sense of purpose to the individual and a sense of integration. Individuals most likely to have peak experiences are self-actualized, mature, healthy, and self-fulfilled. All individuals are capable of peak experiences. Those who do not have them somehow depress or deny them.
Maslow originally found the occurrence of peak experiences in individuals who were self-actualized, but later found that peak experiences happened to non-actualizers as well but not as often. In his The Farther Reaches of Human Nature (New York, 1971) he writes:
- I have recently found it more and more useful to differentiate between two kinds of self-actualizing people, those who were clearly healthy, but with little or no experiences of transcendence, and those in whom transcendent experiencing was important and even central … It is unfortunate that I can no longer be theoretically neat at this level. I find not only self-actualizing persons who transcend, but also nonhealthy people, non-self-actualizers who have important transcendent experiences. It seems to me that I have found some degree of transcendence in many people other than self-actualizing ones as I have defined this term …