Maslow's hierarchy of needs

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Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology that Abraham Maslow proposed in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation,[1] which he subsequently extended to include his observations of humans' innate curiosity.

Maslow studied exemplary people such as Albert Einstein, Jane Addams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Frederick Douglass rather than mentally ill or neurotic people, writing that "the study of crippled, stunted, immature, and unhealthy specimens can yield only a cripple psychology and a cripple philosophy."[2] Maslow also studied the healthiest one percent of the college student population. This subjectivity troubled even Maslow himself. In his book, "The Farther Reaches of Human Nature", Maslow writes, "By ordinary standards of laboratory research...this simply was not research at all. My generalizations grew out of my selection of certain kinds of people. Obviously, other judges are needed."

While Maslow's theory was regarded as an improvement over previous theories of personality and motivation, it had its detractors. For example, in their extensive review of research that is dependent on Maslow's theory, Wahba and Bridgewell [3] found little evidence for the ranking of needs that Maslow described, or even for the existence of a definite hierarchy at all. Chilean economist and philosopher Manfred Max Neef has also argued that fundamental human needs are non-hierarchical, and are ontologically universal and invariant in nature - part of the condition of being human; poverty, he argues, is the result of any one of these needs being frustrated, denied or unfulfilled.



[edit] Representations

This diagram shows Maslow's hierarchy of needs, represented as a pyramid with the more primitive needs at the bottom.
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 being associated with Physiological needs, while the top level is termed growth needs associated with psychological needs. Deficiency needs must be met first. Once these are met, seeking to satisfy growth needs drives personal growth. The higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are satisfied. Once an individual has moved upwards to the next level, needs in the lower level will no longer be prioritized. If a lower set of needs is no longer being met, the individual will temporarily re-prioritize those needs by focusing attention on the unfulfilled needs, but will not permanently regress to the lower level . For instance, a businessman (at the esteem level) who is diagnosed with cancer will spend a great deal of time concentrating on his health (physiological needs), but will continue to value his work performance (esteem needs) and will likely return to work during periods of remission.

[edit] Deficiency needs

The first four layers of the pyramid are what Maslow called "deficiency needs" or "D-needs": the individual does not feel anything if they are met, but feels anxious if they are not met. The deficiency needs are: Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging, and Esteem needs.

[edit] Physiological needs

These are the basic animal needs for such things as food, warmth, sex, water, and other body needs. If a person is hungry or thirsty or his body is chemically unbalanced, all of his energies turn toward remedying these deficiencies, and other needs remain inactive. Maslow explains that, "Anyone who attempts to make an emergency picture into a typical one, and who will measure all of man's goals and desires by his behavior during extreme physiological deprivation, is certainly blind to many things. It is quite true that man lives by bread alone — when there is no bread".[1]

The physiological needs of the organism (those enabling homeostasis) take first precedence. These consist mainly of:

  • Excretion
  • Eating
  • Sex
  • Drinking
  • Sleeping
  • Warmth

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.

[edit] Safety needs

With his physical needs relatively satisfied, the individual's safety needs take over and dominate his behavior. These needs have to do with man's yearning for a predictable, orderly world in which injustice and inconsistency are under control, the familiar frequent, and the unfamiliar rare. In the world of work, these safety needs manifest themselves in such things as a preference for job security, grievance procedures for protecting the individual from unilateral authority, savings accounts, insurance policies, and the like.

For the most part physiological and safety needs are reasonably well satisfied in our affluent and relatively lawful society. The obvious exceptions, of course, are people outside the mainstream — the poor, the disadvantaged, and members of minority groups. If frustration has not led to apathy and weakness, such people still struggle to satisfy the basic physiological and safety needs. They are primarily concerned with survival: obtaining adequate food, clothing, shelter, and seeking justice from the dominant societal groups.

Safety needs include:

  • Personal security from crime
  • Financial security
  • Health and well-being
  • Safety net against accidents/illness and the adverse impacts

[edit] Love/Belonging/Social needs

After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third layer of human needs is social. This psychological aspect of Maslow's hierarchy involves emotionally-based relationships in general, such as:

Humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance, whether it comes from a large social group (such as 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. e.g. an anorexic ignores the need to eat and the security of health for a feeling of control and belonging.

[edit] Esteem needs

All humans have a need to be respected, to have self-esteem, self-respect, and to respect others. People need to engage themselves to gain recognition and have an activity or activities that give the person a sense of contribution, to feel accepted and self-valued, be it in a profession or hobby. Imbalances at this level can result in low self-esteem, inferiority complexes. People with low self-esteem need respect from others. They may seek fame or glory, which again depends on others. However confidence, competence and achievement only need one person and everyone else is inconsequential to one's own success. It may be noted, however, that many people with low self-esteem will not be able to improve their view of themselves simply by receiving fame, respect, and glory externally, but must first accept themselves internally. Psychological imbalances such as depression can also prevent one from obtaining self-esteem on both levels.

[edit] Growth needs

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 behavior.

[edit] Cognitive needs

Maslow believed that humans have the need to increase their intelligence and thereby chase knowledge. Cognitive needs is the expression of the natural human need to learn, explore, discover and create to get a better understanding of the world around them.

[edit] Aesthetic needs

Based on Maslow's beliefs, it is stated in the hierarchy that humans need beautiful imagery or something new and aesthetically pleasing 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.

[edit] Self-actualization

Self-actualization — a concept Maslow attributed to Kurt Goldstein, one of his mentors — is the instinctual need of humans to make the most of their abilities and to strive to be the best they can. Working toward fulfilling our potential, toward becoming all that we are capable of becoming.

In Maslow's scheme, the final stage of psychological development comes when the individual feels assured that his physiological, security, affiliation and affection, self-respect, and recognition needs have been satisfied. As these become dormant, he becomes filled with a desire to realize all of his potential for being an effective, creative, mature human being. "What a man can be, he must be"[1], is the way Maslow expresses it.

Maslow's need hierarchy is set forth as a general proposition and does not imply that everyone's needs follow the same rigid pattern. For some people, self-esteem seems to be a stronger motivation than love. Mussolini, for example, alienated his closest friends by undertaking reckless military adventures to achieve status as a conqueror. (This example can also be used to illustrate the means-to-an-end dilemma of human motivation. That is, Mussolini may have reached for status as a means to gaining the affection of Adolf Hitler. More will be said about this problem later.) For some people, the need to create is often a stronger motivation than the need for food and safety. Thus, the artist living in poverty is a classic example of reversing the standard hierarchy of needs. Similarly, persons who have suffered hunger or some other deprivation for protracted periods may live happily for the rest of their lives if only they can get enough of what they lacked. In this case, the level of aspiration may have become permanently lowered and the higher-order, less prepotent needs may never become active. There are also cases of people's martyring themselves for causes and suffering all kinds of deprivations, particularly in the physiological, safety, and sometimes social categories, to achieve their goals.

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 have discernment and are able to view all things in an objective manner.

To further confound the problem of understanding motivation, Maslow points out that motives are not always conscious.[1] In the average person, he believes, they are more often unconscious than conscious — showing the influence on his thinking of Freudian psychologists who have long been concerned with the hidden causes of human behavior.

In Maslow's theory, then, human needs are arranged in a hierarchy of importance. Needs emerge only when higher-priority needs have been satisfied. By the same token, satisfied needs no longer influence behavior. This point seems worth stressing to managers and administrators, who often mistakenly assume that money and other tangible incentives are the only cures for morale and productivity problems. It may be, however, that the need to participate, to be recognized, to be creative, and to experience a sense of worth are better motivators in an affluent society, where many have already achieved an acceptable measure of freedom from hunger and threats to security and personal safety, and are now driven by higher-order psychological needs.

In short, self-actualization is reaching one's fullest potential. However, to further clarify “There are certain conditions which are immediate prerequisites for the basic need satisfactions.” “Such conditions as freedom to speak, freedom to do what one wishes so long as no harm is done to others, freedom to express one's self, freedom to investigate and seek for information, freedom to defend one's self, justice, fairness, honesty, orderliness in the group are examples of such preconditions for basic need satisfactions.” [1]

According to Maslow, the tendencies of self-actualizing people are as follows:

1. Awareness

  • efficient perception of reality
  • freshness of appreciation
  • peak experiences
  • ethical awareness

2. Honesty

  • philosophical sense of humour
  • social interest
  • deep interpersonal relationships
  • democratic character structure

3. Freedom

  • need for solitude
  • autonomous, independent
  • creativity, originality
  • spontaneous

4. Trust

  • problem centered
  • acceptance of self, others, nature
  • resistance to enculturation - identity with humanity

Maslow discovered that healthy individuals are motivated toward what he termed self-actualization, and noted that Self-actualizing people had strikingly similar characteristics. He described self-actualization as:

“an episode or spurt in which the powers of the person come together in a particularly and intensely enjoyable way, and in which he is more integrated and less split, more open for experience, more idiosyncratic, more perfectly expressive or spontaneous, or fully functioning, more creative, more humorous more ego-transcending, more independent of his lower needs, etc. He becomes in these episodes more truly himself, more perfectly actualising his potentialities, closer to the core of his being, more fully human. Not only are these his happiest and most thrilling moments, but they are also moments of greatest maturity, individuation, fulfilment - in a word, his healthiest moments.

Self-actualising people, those who have come to a high level of maturation, health and self-fulfilment, have so much to teach us that sometimes they seem almost like a different breed of human beings.”

The following descriptions have been compiled from the writings of Maslow and others.

1. Clearer perception of reality. Self-actualizing people perceive reality more effectively than others and are more comfortable with it. They have an accurate perception of what exists rather than a distortion of perception by one's needs, and possess an ability to be objective about their own strengths, possibilities and limitations. They judge experiences, people and things correctly and efficiently, and have an unusual ability to detect the spurious, the fake, and the dishonest. They are not afraid of the unknown and can tolerate the doubt, uncertainty, and tentativeness accompanying the perception of the new and unfamiliar.

2. Acceptance of self, others, and nature. Self-actualizing persons are not ashamed or guilty about their human nature, with its shortcoming, imperfections, frailties, and weaknesses. They can accept their own human shortcomings, without condemnation. Nor are they critical of these aspects of other people. They respect and esteem themselves and others. Moreover, they are honest, open, genuine, without pose or facade. They are not, however, self-satisfied but are concerned about discrepancies between what is and what might be or should be in themselves, others, and society.

3. Spontaneity. Self-actualizing people are relatively spontaneous in their behaviour, and far more spontaneous than that in their inner life, thoughts and impulses. Self-actualising persons are not hampered by convention, but they do not flout it. They are not conformists, but neither are they anti-conformist for the sake of being so. They might act conventionally, but they seldom allow convention to keep them from doing anything they consider important or basic. They are not externally motivated or even goal-directed; rather their motivation is the internal one of growth and development, the actualization of themselves and their potentialities.

4. Problem-centering. Self-actualizing people have a problem-solving orientation towards life instead of an orientation centered on self. 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 commonly have a mission in life, some problem outside themselves that enlists much of their energies. In general this mission is unselfish and is involved with the philosophical and the ethical.

5. Detachment and the need for solitude. Self-actualizing people enjoy solitude and privacy. It is often possible for them to remain above the battle, unruffled and undisturbed by that which upsets others. They may even appear to be asocial. It is perhaps, related to an abiding sense of security and self-sufficiency.

6. Autonomy, independent of culture and environment. Self-actualizing persons are not dependent for their main satisfactions on other people or culture or means-to-ends, or in general, on extrinsic satisfactions. Rather they are dependent for their own development and continued growth upon their own potentialities and latent resources. The meaning of their life is self-decision, self-governing and being an active, responsible, self-disciplined deciding person rather than a pawn or a person helplessly ruled by others.

7. Continued freshness of appreciation. Self-actualizing people have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again the basic pleasures of life. They experience awe, pleasure, and wonder in their everyday world, such as nature, children, music and sexual experience. They approach these basic experiences with awe, pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy.

8. The mystic experience, the oceanic feeling. Self-actualizing people commonly have mystic or `peak' experiences or times of intense emotions in which they transcend self. During a peak experience, they experience feelings of ecstasy, awe, and wonder with feelings of limitless horizons opening up, feelings of unlimited power and at the same time feelings of being more helpless than ever before. The experience ends with the conviction that something extremely important and valuable has happened so that the person is to some extent transformed and strengthened by the experience that has a carry-over into everyday life.

9. Oneness with humanity. Self-actualizing people have deep feelings of identification, sympathy and affection for other people, and a deep feeling of empathy and compassion for human beings in general. This feeling is, in a sense, unconditional in that it exists along with the recognition of the existence in others of negative qualities that may provoke occasional anger, impatience, and disgust.

10. Deep interpersonal relations. Self-actualizing people have deeper and more profound inter-personal relationships than most adults, but not necessarily deeper than children. They are capable of more closeness, greater love, more perfect identification, more erasing of ego boundaries than other people would consider possible. One consequence is that self-actualised people have especially deep ties with rather few individuals and their circle of friends is small. They tend to be kind or at least patient to almost everyone, yet they do speak realistically and harshly of those whom they feel deserve it — especially the hypocritical, pretentious, pompous, or the self-inflated individual.

11. Democratic character structure. Self-actualizing people are democratic in the deepest possible sense. They are friendly towards everyone regardless of class, education, political beliefs, race, or colour. They believe it is possible to learn something from everyone. They are humble in the sense of being aware of how little they know in comparison with what could be known and what is known by others. They are ready and willing to learn from anyone. They respect everyone as a potential contributor to their knowledge, merely because everyone is a human being.

12. Ethical means towards moral ends. Self-actualizing persons are highly ethical. They clearly distinguish between means and ends and subordinate means to ends. Their notions of right and wrong and of good and evil are often not conventional ones.

13. Philosophical, unhostile sense of humor. Self-actualizing people have a keen, unhostile sense of humour. They don't laugh at jokes that hurt other people or are aimed at others' inferiority — unless it is a convention that for some reason they happen to decide to follow in that situation. They can make fun of others in general — or of themselves — especially when they are foolish or try to be big when they are small. They are inclined towards thoughtful humour that elicits a smile, is intrinsic to the situation, and spontaneous.

14. Creativity. Self-actualizing people are highly imaginative and creative. The creativity involved here is not special-talent creativity. It is a creativity potentially inherent in everyone but usually suffocated by acculturation. It is a fresh, naive, direct way of looking at things, rather similar to the naive and universal creativity of unspoiled children.

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d e A.H. Maslov, A Theory of Human Motivation, Psychological Review 50 (1943):370-96.
  2. ^ Maslow, Abraham (1954). Motivation and Personality. 
  3. ^ Wahba, A; Bridgewell, L (1976). "Maslow reconsidered: A review of research on the need hierarchy theory". Organizational Behavior and Human Performance (15): 212-240.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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