Hierarchy of Human Needs (Maslow – 1943)

What is now commonly referred to as Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, was presented by Maslow as “an attempt to formulate a positive theory of motivation” (Maslow, 1943b). This theory was presented in satisfaction of a set of propositions previously enumerated (Maslow, 1943a) and later extended in his presentation of A Theory of Human Motivation (Maslow, 1943b). In brief, these propositions are

  1. Required the foundation of the “integrated wholeness of the organism” (p. 370)
  2. Rejected any physiological drive (including hunger) as a centering point, since “any drive that is somatically based and localizable was shown to be atypical rather than typical in human motivation” (p. 370)
  3. Called for a theory centered on “ultimate or basic goals rather than partial or superficial ones” (p. 370)
  4. Acknowledged “various cultural paths to the same goal” (p. 370)
  5. Recognized an act as typically having “more than one motivation” (p. 370)
  6. Assumed all “organismic states” (p. 370) are both motivated and motivating
  7. Assumed that “human needs arrange themselves in hierarchies of prepotency” (p. 370) and that “man is a perpetually wanting animal” (p. 370)
  8. Rejected “lists of drives” (p. 370) as having any utility for theoretical or practical purposes
  9. Required “classifications of motivations [to be] based upon goals rather than upon instigating drives or motivated behavior” (p. 371)
  10. Required that the motivation theory be “human-centered rather than animal-centered” (p. 371)
  11. Rejected field theory as a substitute for motivation theory
  12. Required not only an accounting of the “integration of the organism [but] also the possibility of isolated, specific, partial or segmental reactions” (p. 371)
  13. Specified that “motivation theory is not synonymous with behavior theory” (p. 371)

Maslow’s theory was derived most directly from clinical experience, but was “in the functionalist tradition of James and Dewey…fused with the holism of Wertheimer (19), Goldstein (6), and Gestalt Psychology, and with the dynamicism of Freud (4) and Adler (1)” (Maslow, 1943b, p. 371).  The theory outlined five sets of human goals, which were referred to as “basic needs” (pp. 372, 394). They are (a) physiological, (b) safety, (c) love, (d) esteem, and (e) self-actualization. Maslow also suggested two additional sources of motivation, which are (f) “the desire to achieve or maintain the various conditions upon which these basic satisfactions rest” (p. 394), and (g) “certain more intellectual desires” (p. 394).

The most common example of a physiological need is hunger. Maslow described “the man who is extremely and dangerously hungry, [as having] no other interests [but] but food. He dreams food, he remembers food, he thinks about food, he emotes only about food, he perceives only food and he wants only food” (1943b, p. 374)While acknowledging the reality of this drive, he denied its generality, stating that “emergency conditions are, almost by definition, rare in the normally functioning peaceful society” (p. 374):

Obviously a good way to obscure the ‘higher’ motivations, and to get a lopsided view of human capacities and human nature, is to make the organism extremely and chronically hungry or thirsty. 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 being blind to many things. (Maslow, 1943b, p. 375)

Maslow felt that what is more interesting than this rare condition is “what happens when there is plenty of bread and when his belly is chronically filled” (1943b, p. 375). He described this more common condition as resulting in emergence of higher needs, the first of which is the need for safety. For infants, threats to safety may include sudden disturbance, being dropped, loud noises, flashing lights or other unusual sensory stimulation, rough handling, or inadequate support (p. 376). For the child, threats of safety include illness; disruption in routine or rhythm; injustice; unfairness; parental inconsistency; quarreling, physical assault, separation, divorce, or death within the family; and “parental outbursts of rage or threats of punishment directed to the child, calling him names, speaking to him harshly, shaking him, handling him roughly, or actual physical punishment” (pp. 377-378). Maslow describes most adults in our culture as being largely satisfied in their needs for safety. However, this need for safety is evident in “the very common preference for familiar rather than unfamiliar things, or for the known rather than the unknown [and] the tendency to have some religion or world-philosophy that organizes the universe and the men in it” (p. 379).

The need for love is the need for affection relations with friends and family, and involves “both giving and receiving love” (Maslow, 1943b, p. 381). The need for esteem refers to a desire to have a stable and usually high evaluation of oneself, for self-respect, and for the esteem of others. A firmly based self-esteem is one which “is soundly based upon real capacity, achievement and respect from others” (p. 381). Maslow divided esteem into two sets: (a) “the desire for strength, for achievement, for adequacy, for confidence in the face of the world, and for independence and freedom” (p. 381); and (b) “the desire for reputation and prestige (defining it as respect or esteem from other people), recognition, attention, importance or appreciation” (p. 382). The need for self-actualization he defined as being realized when “the individual is doing what he is fitted for” (p. 382). The motivating nature of this drive is expressed in the statement, “what a man can be, he must be” (p. 382). Maslow explained that the specific form that the self-actualization need will take will vary significantly from one person to another. He said that “basically satisfied people” (p. 383) are satisfied in their physiological, safety, love, and esteem needs, and are then in a position to pursue creativity through self-actualization. He also said that basically satisfied people are the exception in our society, and as a result we do not know much about it (p. 383).

Maslow described the basic needs as being related to each other, “arranged in a hierarchy of prepotency” (1943b, p. 394) in which once a need is “fairly well satisfied, the next prepotent (‘higher’) need emerges, in turn to dominate the conscious life and to serve as the center of organization of behavior, since gratified needs are not active motivators” (p. 395). He admitted this hierarchy, however, to be “not nearly so rigid as we may have implied” (p. 386), citing examples of people in whom self-esteem is more important than love; innately creative people who are driven to create more than anything else (possibly in spite of lack of basic satisfaction); people in whom aspiration has been abandoned, content to be satisfied if only they can get enough food; people who have “lost forever the desire and the ability to give and to receive affection” (p. 386);  the undervaluation of a need that is typically satisfied or has been satisfied for a very long time; a person not exhibiting behavior in accord with his want for the more basic of two needs; and people who will “give up everything for the sake of a particular ideal, or value” (p. 387).

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