Maslows hierarchy of needs

Main points Maslow thought that most behavior occurred in response to some kind of motivation, which was made up of the interplay among different needs, or drives. Previous (mostly psychoanalytic) theories of motivation had suggested that behavior was

Physiological needs According to Maslow's theory, the most pre-potent needs are the physiological needs, such as the need for food or water. He suggested that there may be a very large number of such needs, many of which are governed by homeostatic mechanisms in the body. A homeostatic mechanism acts to keep the body in a fairly constant state, not allowing extremes in either direction, much the way a thermostat regulates the temperature in a house. Maslow pointed out the work of physiologists of his time who had discovered homeostatic mechanisms, and suggested that the body's need to maintain a steady level of certain substances would be the basis for many of the physiological needs and the motivated behavior necessary to satisfy these needs.

Maslow noted that if a particular physiological need were not satisfied, motivation to satisfy it would govern the person's behavior until the need was met. Thus a starving man would think about food, dream about food, and engage in behavior designed to get food. While the man might have other needs or wishes, his awareness would be dominated by his need for food.

According to Maslow's theory, a person must have his or her physiological needs reasonably well satisfied before he or she can respond to any other needs on the hierarchy. He noted, however, that most of the time people do have these needs satisfied, and thus the physiological needs recede into the background and other, "higher" needs emerge. Departing from other theories that had ascribed a greater importance to physiological needs, Maslow pointed out that the "emergency" conditions of extreme physiological need were not typical for most people, and thus these needs cannot explain most behavior.

Maslow also recognized that physiological needs can fluctuate over short time periods, as, for example, when a person's need for food varies over the course of a day depending on what they have eaten. He suggested that if the physiological needs were basically satisfied over time, then higher needs could come into play. In other words, it was not necessary for a need to be perfectly and completely satisfied in order for higher needs to be activated; it was only necessary that the need be satisfied relatively well. He also noted that a person might be able to tolerate chronic deprivation of some physiological needs at times, if they had previously experienced gratification of the need most of the time. So a person who had been well-fed for most of his or her life would be able to focus on some other need in a particular situation even though he or she was hungry.

Safety needs Once the physiological needs are basically satisfied, the next set of needs to emerge involves safety and security. A person who is responding to these needs seeks protection from injury or attack and strives for order and predictability in the world. Maslow thought that the safety needs operated very much like physiological needs, although to a lesser degree. Thus if the person felt deprived of safety and security, he or she would focus on satisfying this need to the exclusion of other needs, living "almost for safety alone."

Maslow thought that safety needs could be understood well by studying infants and young children, who often express these needs very directly and clearly. Thus a young child becomes frantic when separated from his or her parents and reacts with fear when confronted with new and strange situations. Young children also have a great need for routine and predictability in their lives, and they become upset and anxious when their routine is disrupted. Maslow thought that most adults would try to hide their insecurities, so that the influence of safety needs would not be as obvious in adults.

Another illustration of the influence of safety needs comes from the behavior of neurotic individuals, who may devote a great deal of their energy to avoiding certain dangers, regardless of their actual risk. Maslow saw neurotic people as constantly afraid that a disaster was about to occur. In response to this fear, they would engage in rituals and other "magical" attempts to reduce their anxiety, or they would seek the protection of someone stronger.

According to Maslow's theory, safety needs are relatively less important for most healthy adults under normal circumstances. He thought society provided enough of a general sense of security that most people did not live in constant fear of disaster or attack. He noted that exceptional circumstances, such as wartime, could activate safety needs in people whose safety needs had previously been satisfied. Additionally, Maslow felt that ordinary behavior such as preferring a permanent job, buying insurance, and adhering to an organized religion could be understood, at least in part, as manifestations of the need for safety and security.

Love, affection, and belonging needs Once the physiological and safety needs are reasonably satisfied, the next set of needs to emerge focuses on relationships with others. Maslow felt that people have a basic need for individual friendships and love, as well as for a sense of belonging to a group. Once a person feels basically secure and has basic physiological needs met, he or she will seek affection and belong-ingness. While he thought that sexuality was greatly influenced by the need for love and affection, Maslow pointed out that the need for love is not the same as the need for sex, which could be understood on a physiological basis.

Maslow noted that the need for love involved both giving and receiving love. In his later writings, he would distinguish two different types of love. One type, which he referred to as D-love (deprivation-love), is an essentially selfish need to give and receive affection from others. People experience this need strongly when they are lonely. In contrast, he also described B-love (being-love), which is a more unselfish desire for what is best for the loved one. People manifest B-love when they love and accept a person's failings and foibles rather than trying to change them. When he formulated the need hierarchy, Maslow seems to have been focused primarily on the need for D-love.

Maslow speculated that chronic failure to meet one's need for love would have serious implications for a person's mental health. Like many of the psychoanalytic theorists, he felt that severe psychopathology might be explained, at least in part, by a failure to meet a person's basic need for love and affection. Many of the person's symptoms could then be understood as attempts to deal with the confusion and anxiety that the lack of affection created. He also suggested that extremely aggressive or psychopathic behavior might occur in a person who has been chronically deprived of love.

Esteem needs The next level of Maslow's need hierarchy involves the need for esteem, that is, positive regard and respect. Maslow distinguished two types of esteem needs, the need for self-esteem and the need for esteem from others. He noted that people who have reasonably satisfied their self-esteem needs feel confident and worthwhile, and also experience a sense of independence and freedom. In addition to this need, people also need to feel that other people respect and recognize them as worthwhile. Maslow pointed out that the respect and adulation of others must be earned; fame by itself, without merit, would not satisfy the person's need for esteem from others.

Maslow thought that self-esteem was related to feelings of dominance or powerfulness. In his early work with monkeys, he had observed that some monkeys assume dominance over others and that this seemed to come from the monkey's feeling that he "deserved" higher status. Maslow carried this idea into his understanding of self-esteem, which he equated with a sense of self-confidence and effectiveness.

Self-actualization Once the physiological, safety, love, and esteem needs have been basically satisfied, the person tends to move into a new, higher level of motivation marked by the need for self-actualization. Maslow defined this need as the need to fulfill one's potential, to be what one can be. For example, a writer might experience the need for self-actualization as a motivation to create poetry, while a musician might experience it as a motivation to make music. Although he used artistic endeavors as examples, Maslow was quick to point out that self-actualization did not necessarily involve artistic creativity. He noted that an artist might create art based solely on inborn talent, without necessarily having satisfied all of his or her basic needs.

Maslow distinguished the need for self-actualization from the other needs by noting that the other needs, which he called basic needs, all involve deficiencies of some sort, such as hunger, anxiety, or loneliness. Satisfaction of these needs could be seen as attempts to make up for what is missing, or to move away from an uncomfortable state of deficiency. In contrast, the need for self-actualization does not involve moving away from a state of deficiency; instead, it involves moving toward a goal of fulfilling oneself.

Maslow made a particular study of people whom he thought were operating under the influence of the need for self-actualization. He saw the need for self-actualization as a characteristic of psychologically healthy, "good human beings," and he felt it was important to understand this motivation because of its implications for human growth and potential. Although he felt that very few people actually reach the level of self-actualization, he believed that most people would have the capacity for this state if they were able to adequately satisfy their more basic needs.

Through his studies of people he considered self-actualizers, Maslow came up with a list of characteristics for the self-actualizing personality. These included such traits as an accurate perception of reality, acceptance of self and others, spontaneity, independence, creativity, a non-hostile sense of humor, and a need for privacy. He noted that self-actu-alizers are often less restricted by cultural norms and expectations and therefore less inhibited. Although they are capable of forming close relationships, they tend to have relatively few friends, preferring a limited number of deeply rewarding relationships.

One of the most important characteristics Maslow noted was the tendency to have peak experiences. Peak experiences are instances of mystical insight and connectedness, when the person feels a heightened sense of awareness and awe. Such experiences are often growth promoting, as they seem to enable a person to look at his or her life in new ways and find new meaning in life. Maslow at first thought these experiences were relatively rare, but as he studied them further, he found evidence that ordinary people can also have such experiences, although they are experienced less often and less intensely than in self-actualizing persons.

Beyond self-actualization Although self-actualization is often depicted as the endpoint in Maslow's hierarchy of needs, he did not think that new needs ceased to emerge once the person reached the level of self-actualization. Instead, he suggested that a whole new set of motivations would become important. These motivations, which he later referred to as B-values or metamotivations, have to do with growth and enhancement. The B-values have a universal and ultimate quality and include values such as truth, beauty, simplicity, and wholeness.

People who have reached this level of motivation find themselves striving for these ultimate values, which they experience as natural and inevitable. Maslow noted that these people often seem to dedicate themselves to a higher goal or vocation, something outside themselves which they find to be important and meaningful. Thus a self-actualizing person might be dedicated to bringing about world peace or fostering beauty in everyday life. This special vocation seems to embody many of the B-values that are important to a self-actualizing person, and such people often find it impossible to think of themselves as doing anything else. Maslow suggested that people who have satisfied all of the basic needs but do not find vocations outside of themselves would suffer from a kind of illness—a sense of pointlessness and emptiness. Thus it would be possible to have all of the basic needs satisfied and still fail to become a self-actualized person.

Other important features of the theory Although Maslow presented his theory of motivation as a hierarchy of needs, he noted that the order of the needs was not rigidly fixed, and he described a number of exceptions. For example, certain individuals might find self-esteem to be more pre-potent than love, and certain creative people might respond to the need to create without ever experiencing satisfaction of their basic needs.

Maslow was particularly struck by exceptions to the hierarchy in which people would sacrifice the satisfaction of their basic needs in order to meet certain ideals or values. For example, an artist might be willing to go hungry or sacrifice security in order to create art, or a humanitarian might choose a life of poverty in order to help others. He thought that these people must have experienced gratification of their basic needs in early life to the extent that they developed the strength to withstand great deprivation later on. He speculated that the most important time for satisfaction of the basic needs would be in the first two years of life.

Maslow also suggested another set of needs, which he referred to as the cognitive needs. These needs include motivations such as curiosity, the desire to know and understand, and the desire for meaning. He was somewhat unclear as to where these needs might fit into the need hierarchy; however, his later formulations of the theory seem to suggest that these needs may be aspects of the need for self-actualization.

Another important point regarding Maslow's theory is that complete satisfaction of a lower level of needs is not necessary in order for a higher need to emerge, and a person may be influenced by multiple needs at once. Maslow speculated that most people would experience partial satisfaction of each of their basic needs at any given time. He thought that as a person got closer to satisfaction of any given need, they would experience the next higher need on the hierarchy to a greater degree. He also noted that the influence of the needs could be unconscious as well as conscious, and he suggested that unconscious influences might be more important.

Finally, Maslow noted that motivation was only one of several influences on behavior. In particular, he recognized that biological and cultural influences could have a strong impact on the person's behavior. He also recognized that circumstances in the immediate environment could have an impact on the way that motivations were experienced or acted upon.

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