What is Hierarchy of Needs?

Meaning & Definition

Hierarchy of Needs

The Hierarchy of Needs is a psychological theory proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” and later expanded upon in his book “Motivation and Personality.” This theory suggests that human needs can be arranged in a hierarchical structure, with lower-level needs serving as prerequisites for higher-level needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is often depicted as a pyramid, with five distinct levels, from the most basic to the highest:

  • Physiological Needs

These are the most fundamental and essential needs for survival, including air, water, food, shelter, and sleep. If these needs are not met, a person’s motivation is primarily focused on fulfilling them.

  • Safety Needs

After physiological needs are satisfied, individuals seek safety and security. This includes personal safety, financial security, health, and protection from harm. People look for stability and predictability in their lives.

  • Love and Belongingness Needs

Once the lower-level needs are met, people seek social connections, love, and a sense of belonging. This level encompasses friendships, intimate relationships, and a sense of community and support.

  • Esteem Needs

This level involves the need for self-esteem, self-respect, and the respect of others. It includes feelings of accomplishment, recognition, and the desire for a positive self-image. Both self-esteem (internal) and the esteem of others (external) are important.

  • Self-Actualization

At the top of the hierarchy is the need for self-actualization, which represents the desire to reach one’s full potential, to become the best version of oneself, and to engage in personal growth and self-fulfillment. It encompasses creativity, problem-solving, morality, and a sense of purpose.

Maslow’s theory suggests that people strive to meet these needs in a sequential manner. Basic physiological needs must be satisfied before safety needs can become a primary focus, and so on. However, it’s important to note that not everyone progresses through these needs in the same way, and individual circumstances and cultural factors can influence the order and importance of these needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has been widely influential in psychology and various other fields, such as education, business management, and self-help. It provides a framework for understanding human motivation and behavior, as well as for addressing and promoting personal and organizational well-being.

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