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Which are the human needs, according to Maslow's pyramid?


Maslow's Pyramid is a psychological theory of human motivation: that which leads us to act as we do.

Abraham Maslow was one of the most influential American psychologists exercised in the twentieth century. He is known for being one of the main representatives of the movement of humanistic psychology, considered by many as the founder of this current.

Humanistic psychology perceives the human being, as an individual who is sensitive to the environment and even subjected to certain conditions, it is an active player in building their knowledge and experience.

The Motivational Maslow Theory, was interested in the psychological functioning of the individual and the forces that drives the human being to carry out certain actions.

Maslow was an author concerned to discover personal development and self-realization of human beings. For him it was important to find out what made humans grow, considered that all people have an innate desire for self-realization.

According to Maslow, our actions are motivated to meet certain needs, which can be sorted by relevance to our welfare. That is, Piaget proposed a theory that there is a hierarchy of human needs, and argued that as the most basic needs are met, humans develop higher needs and desires. From this hierarchy it is established what is known as Maslow pyramid.

However, he argued that to achieve the ultimate motivation for the human being, the individual must meet other needs that are found ahead such as food, safety or group membership.

If a person is hungry, does not have a roof to sleep or work that ensures a salary, Maslow believes will deal first of all before achieving personal fulfillment.

Maslow Pyramid

While some existing schools at that time (psychoanalysis or behavioral psychology) focused on problem behaviors and learning from a passive being, Maslow was more concerned to learn about what makes people happier and what can be done to improve personal development and self-realization.

As a humanist, his idea is that people have an innate desire for self-realization, to be whatever they want to be. Aspire to the goals of self-actualization, before they have to cover the above needs such as food, security, etc. For example, only we care about issues related to self-realization if we are sure that we have a stable job, guaranteed food and some friends who accept us.

Characteristics of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

To understand the theory proposed by Maslow we must consider the following: 

  • Only when a level has been adequately satisfied, the next level can take place.

If motivation or need is not met, human behavior tends to satisfy it. Until it does, man will not go to the next motivation and therefore cannot develop.

  • Therefore, not everyone will be in the same place of the pyramid. Depending on personal circumstances, each person will be placed in a place of the pyramid.
  • Not all people reach the last step or top of the pyramid, to self-actualization. Some people may worry about achieving satisfy while many others all his life will be at lower levels.
  • The pyramid is a hierarchy, as we have said. When are met, they start the following.

However, if at a particular time and in a top link being one of the lower longer satisfied, tension originates in the body.

This dissatisfied need is lower which will take control of the person, his motivation and rule to organize and mobilize the body to meet it.

  • The frustration in satisfying different needs involves a threat to the body and these are those that produce an alarm reaction in the body and mobilized.

Levels of needs according to Maslow pyramid:


  1. The physiological needs

They are at the base of the pyramid. They are those relating to satisfy minimum conditions that allow the human being to function.

It is all that concerns food, thirst, breathing, relaxation, sex, shelter and homeostasis (body balance, the effort made by the body automatically to maintain a consistency and a normal state).

If a person does not perceive that these needs are met, not feel the urge to get higher needs immediately, since their motivation would be aimed at covering the physiological.

These are needs that are born with the person, while all of the following are emerging throughout life.

We can locate them in some specific parts of the human body and are pressing because they have a character of repetition. Most of them can be satisfied with money.

These needs are the most basic, the most powerful and those that have less meaning for the person seeking self-actualization.

  1. The security an safety needs

They are the needs that refer to the tendency to feel that we are safe and secure, in a stable environment, we can organize and structure our environment we move. Human beings do not like living in an uncertain environment. 

They refer to the needs that maintain order and vital security.

The human being has the need for security, but only if it has met before physiological needs. We found the need for stability, order, protection and dependence. 

Often the human being shows the need for security through fear of different things. The person is afraid of uncertainty, confusion, what is not known. All this reflects the fear of lack of security.

Within these needs could find the concern to save, to buy property, having the foreseeable future, there is no risk to the personal integrity or family.

Many people reach to this level only. 

  1. The needs of love and belonging

The human being is a social animal. Therefore, once covered the above needs will arise the need to belong to a group.

The human being needs to feel part of a particular organization, but these needs are "less basics" or "more complex" than the above.

This need is subordinate to satisfy the physiological needs priority and security.

Within the need for affiliation we found affection, love, the fact of belonging to a group, be rooted to a land and thus stop feeling alone.

We could find examples in fact form a family, to have a group of friends, join social groups, neighborhood group, have children, and so on.

It should be noted also that the individualism of this society and competitiveness that characterizes go against this need. 

  1. The need of self esteem, recognition and value

Every human being needs to have an appreciation of itself, a need for self-esteem or recognition.

This self-esteem is partly constructed from the esteem of others. The human being needs to be recognized, have self-esteem, feel secure and meaningful within society.

If the person fails to satisfy this need often feelings of unhappiness, low self esteem arise, people are considered inferior to others. 

Within the need for esteem, Maslow distinguishes between:

  1. Need to lower estimates: it is a lower need, including the respect of others to self, dignity, care of others, to maintain the reputation, have fame, status.
  2.  Higher esteem Need: includes self-respect to himself, including one's own competence, achievement, be independent, have confidence in yourself and be free.
  1. The need for self-actualization

This need is at the top of the pyramid proposed by Maslow. They are the target needs. These are higher or more subjective needs.

In the process of human development, there is a tendency to fulfill the desire to be ever, more human.

They are difficult to describe some needs, but include the satisfaction of one's individuality in all aspects.

It means, developing their own internal and unique needs of each. This involves developing a spiritual way, achieve moral development, found the meaning of life itself, to be altruistic.

People seeking self-realization must be free to be themselves. It is including the need to meet our personal skills, develop our potential, do what have greater skills, expand the search for justice, produce order, beauty, etc.

This last desire, or aspiration, will be different depending on each individual, since each will feel self-realized, from different situations or experiences that do not necessarily coincide with those of another person.

For example, one of the aspirations that may have an individual to feel self-realized, it may be eventually become owner of his own company, while for another person can be a family.

In reaching to meet the need of development or self-realization, it is necessary that the human being has satisfied all of the previous needs. However, this does not guarantee in any way that the person to achieve self-realization.

The need for self-realization depends on each person is unique, personal and changing. They relate to the growth potential of each individual.

Within these needs we found also of importance, referring to the community and contribution to mankind, going away from the individual. Altruism would be a motivation that could be considered even superior to self-realization.

Self-realization is dynamic and involves the use of creative capabilities. These people tend to be clearer, objective and not get carried away so emotionality. They engaged in a vocation or cause and are often committed to something beyond oneself.

Regarding to the needs, Maslow classified in two ways:

a) Deficit or basic needs:
Basic needs are those that refer to the physiology of individual security and the feeling of belonging or affiliation.
They are also named primary needs, they are located at the bottom of the pyramid.

b) Need for growth or secondary:

Also called superior or developmental needs, those that are more complex and are at the top of the pyramid.

They are different needs because the first group refers to a lack that human beings try to compensate or replace, while the second group the self-realization refers to achieve personal development.

The fact of not having achieved the basic needs, the individual get involved in the search for cover, because it generates unpleasant consequences. However, the higher needs do not involve deficits, involve the quest to grow and seek the desire for personal fulfillment.

In addition, establishes that Maslow hierarchy of needs arranged in two blocks, presents a growing and accumulative sequence from the most objective to the most subjective.

Criticisms of Maslow Pyramid

Although some investigations support the theory of Abraham Maslow, most data collected in many investigations do not appear to be on the same line as the Pyramid of Maslow. For example, Wahba and Bridwell, conclude that there is little evidence to show the hierarchy postulated by Maslow. In addition, the Pyramid of Maslow has also been criticized for being difficult to prove the concept of self-realization. Many of the concepts and categories described in the pyramid, are too abstract and ambiguous to be scientifically studied.

However, these authors and others who have questioned also consider that it is not necessary an order in the form of pyramid, to meeting needs and an individual might try to meet different needs at once. Unlike Maslow's theory, there is research that conclude, the needs of recognition and self-realization are also important even if there weren’t covered the most basic needs.

Other authors believe that the pyramid is not invariable, and depends on culture the fact to position some needs, or others in the order of the hierarchy.

Moreover, Maslow investigation was based on a very small sample of individuals. Criticism of its methodology refers to himself, chose people he considered self-realized, after reading about them or talk to them and draw conclusions about what is self-realization. In fact, the people who interviewed Maslow when making the pyramid of needs, can hardly represent the majority of the human population, as were persons belonging to the West, rich and influential culture. Some of the people who investigated are Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Characteristics of self-actualizing people

Based on studies with the theory of motivation and hierarchy of needs in search of self-realization as a final need, Maslow established a number of features that have self-actualizing people.

The central concept of his theory is self-realization. He defines it as "the realization of the potential of the person, become fully human, to become everything the person may be concerned with attaining full identity and individuality '.

It is 16 traits that would show these people, although there are few who manage to reach:

  1. Be realistic about life and efficient perception of reality.
  2. To accept, accept others and the world around them, for example, show respect for them, others and nature.
  3. They are spontaneous, simple and natural.
  4. Problems that go beyond their immediate needs arise.
  5. Need for intimacy but also of loneliness.
  6. They are independent, and autonomous.
  7. Deep and not stereotyped Worldview.
  8. They can live spiritual experiences.
  9. Keep deep, and intimate relationships with others.
  10. They identify with humanity.
  11. Are creative people.
  12. Maintain democratic attitudes and values.
  13. Do not confuse means with ends.
  14. Sense of humor without cruelty.
  15. They are socially nonconformist.
  16. Need for transcendence, to contribute to humanity.

Maslow claims, that the fact to meet these needs, and motivations all around them, is the impulse that leads people to develop in different areas of life, and to develop their personality.

When a person fails to satisfy them, feels unhappy because they occur in it, frustrating and selfish feelings. The person is stagnating at the stage that fails to satisfy.

The ideal is to reach self-realization, the top of the pyramid that allows the person to develop, and realize their full potential.