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Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow[?] in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation. He formulated a hierarchy of human needs, and his theory contends that as the basic needs are met humans desire higher needs.

Table of contents

Physiological Needs The body aims to achieve homeostasis, an equilibrium of different factors (water content of the blood, salt content, sugar content, protein content, fat content, calcium content, oxygen content, constant hydrogen-ion level /acid-base level, constant blood temperature). This is obtained with food, drinks, shelter, fresh air, a proper temperature, etc. If all of a human's needs are unmet then the physiological need takes the highest priority. Given hunger for love and food, a human is more likely to find a solution for the latter first. As a result all other desires and capacities are pushed on to the back burner.

Safety Needs When the physiological needs are met then the human turns towards safety needs. Safety attains the highest priority over all other desires. A functioning society tends to provide this to its members. Examples in the recent past/present of where this has failed include Somalia and Afghanistan. In Kosovo, while food was available, the absence of security for the Kosovars resulted in a large population being displaced in search of security.

However, in the case of acute danger, safety comes before things like eating.

Love Needs If safety and physiological needs are met then the human being gravitates towards achieving fulfilment of love needs. A note worth making here is that sex is not equivalent to love. Love can and is often expressed sexually. Sexuality can at points be considered solely for its physiological basis.

Esteem[?] Needs

Self-actualization Self-actualization is the need of a human to make the mose of abilities.

In recent years, the term has been somewhat overused and is opften perceived as psycho-babble.

Maslow described it as:

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. This need we may call self-actualisation. -- Motivation and Personality, 1954

While Maslow's theory was seen as an improvement on previous theories of personality and motivation, concepts such as self-actualisation are somewhat vague. There is no proof that every person has ability to become self-actualised.


  • A. H. Maslow. A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396. (1943)

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