Blue Flower

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and the Person

This is the first article in a series of three. The other articles are:

  1. Maslow and the Organisation;
  2. Maslow and the Nation;

Within Business Administration, the Industrial and Organisational Psychology, and Industrial Sociology Maslow is well known. Maslow was among the Humanistic psychology who believed that every person has a strong desire to realize his or her full potential, to reach a level of "self-actualization".

In 1943 Abraham Maslow published a paper titled "A Theory of Human Motivation". In this paper he worked out a hierarchy of needs. In order to fulfil its full potential in development a person must go through a number of successive categories. According to Maslow's theory a category needs largely to be met before the next category could be worked on.


Maslow distinguished the following categories:

  1. Physiological needs. Needs like sleeping, eating, sex, sport and comfort. Someone has to satisfy his physical needs before the next group's turn to come.
  2. Safety needs.  An individual has the need for personal and financial security, and should know that there is a safety net against illness or accident.

These first two categories determine the survival of the individual. When these needs for food and drink, shelter and safety are met, he can work achieving more.

  1. Love and belonging, or the need for social contact. The individual feels the need to be part of a family, be in friendly relations with others, be intimate with another.
  2. Esteem, the need for appreciation and recognition. In the first place the person must be happy about who he is. Recognition by his peers for his contribution being a close second.
  3. Self-actualization or the need for self-fulfilment. This level of need refers to what a person's full potential is and the realization of that potential.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (Wikipedea)

Maslow's Needs Categories can provide insight into what a person does when making his or her choices. So you can go to a concert satisfy your last category, the need for aesthetics, part of the need for self-actualization. But going with a hungry stomach will make you appreciate the efforts of the musicians less. And turn off your telephone, as a message that your house is on fire will make you want to be elsewhere.

People in less developed countries will primarily focus more on the first two categories, while people in developed countries will pursue the third and fourth categories. (bridge to the third article).

There is a lot of criticism on the hierarchical ordering of needs by Maslow. In the first place it is difficult to test the validity of Maslow's theory. The different hierarchies are also criticized, their number and the definition of the different categories. Due to this lack of scientific support Maslow's ideas have fallen out of fashion and are no longer taken seriously in academic psychology.

Then why use Maslow's theory as the maiden series of articles for this website? Because one should keep the Hierarchy of Needs in the back of his or her mind when making life's choices.

At school you can make the conscious choice not to pay attention what the teacher is telling you. But realise that making this choice will make you dependent on unemployment benefits. And unemployment benefits are just enough to buy you some food and keep you out of the rain.

At the same time there are numerous persons who do not make this decision consciously. Persons strive to become the number one in their sport. As they pursue their sporting career their income is guaranteed by their parents or by a sports federation. However, all good things will come to an end. Either your physical capacities dwindle or you decide to live on your own. That might be the moment you find yourself without an income.

Better be it for you to strive for the highest possible, the need for self-actualization. Make sure you complete the education you like with a diploma. After education you will progress to a job which will ensure you all the satisfaction you need. Keep on learning thereafter, strive to maximize the potential that is inside you.

Next time I will write about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in another setting: Maslow and the Organisation.