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Hierarchy of Needs

Hierarchy of Needs

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08/24/2010

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Hierarchy of Needs (Emer O’Donovan

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Introduction Abraham Maslow (1908 - 1970) was a member of the Chicago dynasty of psychologists and sociologists. He published his paper: 'A theory of human motivation' in 1943. Maslow based his theory on the assumption that every human has needs and his paper attempts to identify the factors that motivate people. The theory is human-centered rather than animalcentered. Animals, such as rats have few motivations other than physiological ones. The theory is based on a study of healthy humans, excluding the sick or frustrated. In his paper, he presents a hierarchy of needs, that act as motivators. A need is no longer ‘a need’ once it has been satisfied and no longer acts as a motivating factor. Human needs arrange themselves in hierarchies of pre-potency. That is to say, the emergence of one need usually rests on the prior satisfaction of another, more pre-potent need. It is these new, unsatisfied needs that motivate people. A need does not have to be 100 per cent satisfied before another emerges. Maslow states that “most members of our society who are normal, are partially satisfied in all their basic needs and partially unsatisfied in all their basic needs at the same time”. Humans have a natural desire to move up the hierarchy of needs. However, it is possible for an individual who is in the higher level of the hierarchy to experience a desire for the basic needs. Maslow states that “no need or drive can be treated as if it were isolated or discrete; every drive is related to the state of satisfaction or dissatisfaction of other drives”. Maslow observed that those individuals in whom a certain need has always been satisfied were best equipped to tolerate deprivation of that need in the future. Furthermore, “those who have been deprived in the past will react differently to current satisfactions than the one who has never been deprived”. Maslow’s hierarchy model has five levels, starting from the personal needs at the bottom and progressing to the intellectual ones at the top as shown in Figure 1. The levels are categorised under the following headings: Physiological, Safety, Social, Esteem and Self-Actualisation.

Level 5 Level 4 Level 3 Level 2 Level 1

Self-Actualisation (self-fulfilment) Esteem (competence, self-respect, approval) Social (belonging, acceptance by others) Safety (security, safe, orderly, predictable world) Physiological (hunger, thirst, breathing) Figure 1 − Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Model.

The physiological needs The physiological needs are the basic needs that are deemed necessary for human survival. Food, water, oxygen, sleep are all elements of the physiological level. Maslow identifies the physiological needs are being the most important of all needs. These needs are the prepotent of all needs. A human who is lacking food, safety, love, esteem and who has yet to achieve self-actualisation would probably hunger for food more than anything else. In fact, Maslow argues that for the man, who is dangerously deprived of food, no other interests exist other than food. The person becomes obsessed by the need for food, they dream about it, talk about it and think about it. Even the person’s perspective on life changes. They begin to believe that if their hunger is satisfied then they may never need anything again, and their lives will be complete. To the starving person, Utopia is a place with an abundance of food. Until the person’s hunger is satisfied, all other needs, such as love and esteem, are irrelevant and at times, completely forgotten. The receptors, memory, habits and intelligence serve solely as hunger-satisfying tools. Until this need is provided for, all other capacities, irrelevant to the satisfaction of hunger, lie dormant. These physiological needs are the most pre-potent of all needs. The safety needs As was the case with the physiological needs, the person deprived of the safety needs becomes dominated by the desire to satisfy these needs. Maslow describes the human who is trying to gratify the safety needs as a “safety-seeking mechanism”. The receptors, memory, habits and intelligence serve solely as safety-satisfying tools. Safety becomes the most important factor in life, and even the physiological needs that have been satisfied, are now underestimated. We are not motivated by one set of needs at a time. If our safety is under threat Social needs The social needs incorporate the idea of love and belonging. The person develops a desire for love and affectionate relationships, belonging to a group and caring. These are growth needs. Unlike the physiological needs, the social needs are not necessary for the support of human life but they do add significantly to the quality of life. The esteem needs The esteems needs comprise of two subsets: self-respect and the respect of others. Selfrespect is satisfied through gaining confidence, competence, adequacy, achievement and mastery. Most people like praise and the approval of others. This is a desire for acceptance, recognition, reputation, appreciation, status, and prestige. The majority of people deprived of the esteem needs experience feelings of inferiority, weakness and helplessness. These feelings in turn can result in compensatory or neurotic trends. Self-actualisation Self-actualisation is at the top of Maslow’s hierarchical model. The emergence of the selfactualisation needs comes after the satisfaction of the physiological, safety, social and esteem needs. Maslow suggests that true satisfaction can only be achieved if a person is making the best use of their abilities and is actualising their potential. He states, “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately happy. What a man can be, he must be.” Very few people ever reach this level. Those who do, are mature are well-adjusted people who are healthy and show no signs of psychological problems. Reference A Theory of Human Motivation, Psychological Review, 50, 370-396 A. H. Maslow (1943)

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