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hierarchy of human needs

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Maslow, Abraham H.
United States
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Psychologist Abraham Maslow studied human motivation from the 1940s until his death in 1970. His Hierarchy of Needs explains motivation and behaviour as the result of different fundamental needs that drive individuals. Motivation is required to undertake action. He assumed that all humans have an inner core based on the sum of an individual's feelings, emotions, desires, needs, and wants. He classified this sum into five groups calling it the Hierarchy of Needs:



The requirements for survival: food, water and shelter.


2. SAFETY needs

The needs of individuals for physical security for themselves and closely related people. Safety, security of home and family, order and stability, are key words in this class.



The requirement to meet social needs: love, affection and a sense of belonging to groups such as hobby clubs, work, religious groups, family.


4. ESTEEM needs

'The desire for strength, for achievement, for adequacy, for mastery and competence, for confidence in the face of the world, and for independence and freedom. Second, we have a desire for reputation and prestige, status fame and glory, dominance, recognition, attention, importance, dignity, or appreciation'. The satisfaction of this class leads to 'feelings of self-confidence, worth, strength, capability and adequacy, of being useful and necessary in the world'.



This drive is not present in all, but when the four lower ranking needs have been met, some develop a particular calling. 'A musician must make music, the artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.' Self-actualised people have a mission bigger than themselves. Many leaders demonstrate this strong, powerful and sometimes dangerous force.


At a given moment, one class of needs dominates, but as soon as it is met, another, higher class of needs becomes activated. The location of the individual's needs in the hierarchy greatly determines motivation and actions. However, meeting all needs within one class is not required for preferences to shift. Often, needs from multiple classes co-exist especially higher in the hierarchy of needs. Even the order of classes can vary since they are dependant on the individual preference and culture.


The model is applicable not only to employee satisfaction, but to consumer purchase processes. For example, those with high needs for safety, value products and services that appeal to this higher need. Thus, young parents highly value safe cars as protection for their new borns.


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hierarchy of needs
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Maslow rejected the externally oriented theories of psychology such as psychoanalysis as a main driver for motivation by assuming that an internal drive is present in all. He devised a universal system that shows in different ways at different times in each individual. The Hierarchy of Human Needs is a powerful tool for understanding human motivation.


This model takes on a dynamic view when one need is satisfied; others in the hierarchy become stronger. Since a satisfied need is not a motivator, it is essential to adequately time interventions.



The appeal of the model is its simplicity, and its use as a first stab analysis. However, when deeper investigation is required, the interviewer requires skill and understanding. Research on the model remains on-going.


Maslow, himself, warned that the model takes into account only 'basic' needs. Other needs, such the need for aesthetics, exist outside the hierarchy.


Maslow regarded culture as one of the influencing factors that can cause a change in the Hierarchy's order, but the model does not take into account cultural differences.



Motivation and Personality
  • Abraham H. Maslow
  • 1954
  • HarperCollins
  • United States
  • ISBN 0060419873