Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Darryl Bachmeier
Jun 10, 2020

Motivation Explained

Theories provide explanatory basis for all kinds of phenomena; be it social, biological, psychological, or natural. In the field of psychology, several theories have been developed by notable scholars to explain the concept of motivation. Basically, this concept preoccupies itself with how humans act or behave in a particular way and why they do; that is, what inspires or stirs up a certain kind of behavioural output in humans. One of such theory that attempts to provide justifications for why human beings act in specified ways is the Abraham Maslow’s theory of motivation.

Maslow’s theory is a content theory of motivation that is, it explains what motivation is and what it is not. This theory explicates motivation from the angle of the dissatisfaction of specified needs arranged in order of precedence. Emphasis is laid on the fact that what motivates human behaviour is the inability to satisfy some higher needs after some needs have been satisfied. That is, after a need is satisfied, humans will never be content as they will always strife to attain a higher one.

Deficiency Needs and Growth Needs

Further, the Maslow’s hierarchy of need or pyramid of needs as it is sometimes called comprises of five crucial elements known as needs. Note that, needs are required conditions needed to attain specific ends such as survival and self-actualization. Stemming from this, these five needs are subdivided into two which are; the deficiency needs and the growth needs.

Deficiency needs are needs that arise as a result of deprivation or denial. In short, they are essential needs that must be satisfied in order to survive. On the other hand, growth needs are not instigated by lack or deprivation; rather, they are inspired by the desire to grow until the goal of self-actualization is reached.

The Hierarchy of Needs

As said above, the Maslow’s hierarchy of need contains five needs arranged in order of importance with the deficiency needs coming first and the growth needs coming after. In a nutshell, what Maslow is saying is that humans will seek to satisfy deficiency needs first before moving on to satisfy growth needs.

The needs are further explained below

The physiological needs

Imagine you are in desert, you feel thirsty but you couldn’t get water to drink. What extent would you not got in order to get water? Even if it means, opening up every plant you can find; there’s nothing you wouldn’t do. This scenario captures how important physiological needs are to humans.

The physiological needs falls under the deficiency needs. They are powered by man’s instinct for survival. There’s no mountain, man wouldn’t climb to satisfy them. They are the most essential need as inability to satisfy them could lead to death or non-survival. They are basic needs that must be met. They include; food, water, clothing, warmth, sex and sleep. Increase in crime rate in recent times has been linked to the deprivation of these needs.

Safety needs

Once physiological needs are met, humans subconsciously progress to find safety and security. At this point, it becomes essential to eliminate whatever is seen as threat-inducing in the internal and external environment. Safety needs are usually manifest through the instrumentality of fear and anxiety.

It is commonly exhibited by children who would always run away from anything that poses threat to their safety; for instance, darkness, fire and bullies. In adult, it could take different forms; for instance, the need for emotional stability, financial security, freedom from intimidation, threat and fear, physical and mental well-being and safety during periods of war, pandemic and disaster. It should be noted that safety needs can be satisfied by one’s external environment such as family, government, police, schools, hospitals etc.

Love and belongingness

Love and a sense of belonging are on the third level of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This need becomes salient after the safety needs must have been satisfied. It is a social need that is motivated by the desire for social acceptance. It consists of both platonic relationships and romantic kinds. It is expressed by desire for friendship, companionship, trust, intimacy and acceptance. The benefit of the love and belongingness needs cannot be overemphasized as it promotes mental well-being. Nevertheless, feelings of isolation, social disconnect, sadness and depression are associated with inability to gratify this need.

Esteem needs

Once the love and belongingness needs have been satisfied, people strife for the next on the pyramid which is self-esteem needs. According to Maslow, esteem needs can be classified into two. The first is esteem for oneself which is usually engendered by a sense of achievement, value and dignity. It entails feeling good and confident about oneself. The second is the desire for reputation. This is determined by status, position, capacity, influence and prestige. When this goal is not met, individuals may suffer from a complex known as the inferiority complex. When it is overdriven, humans are prone to pride and superiority complex.


This is the highest need on the pyramid of needs. In simple terms, it means being fulfilled. It is the last need that humans strife to satisfy once the esteem needs have been satiated. These needs can be expressed in whatever form as it varies from one individual to another; for some, it is becoming the best parents while for some other it’s attaining creative heights in painting and art. Ultimately, these goals are channeled towards attaining fulfillment in life.

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