Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

  • 0:54 Abraham Maslow
  • 2:17 Physiological Needs
  • 3:14 Safety Needs
  • 3:54 Social Needs
  • 4:45 Esteem Needs
  • 5:32 Self-Actualization Needs
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Melissa Hurst
Why is it that when some of our needs aren't met, it's almost impossible to concentrate on other ones? Psychologist Abraham Maslow spent his career looking for these answers. Watch this lesson to learn about some of his most important conclusions.

What Motivates Us?

Have you ever thought about what motivates you? Why do we get up and go to work or school? Why do we hang out with our friends? Why do schools provide recess or employers provide paid vacation days? The answers to these questions can be found within the study of motivation and more specifically, needs.

Some psychologists say motivation is driven by unsatisfied needs. Needs like food, shelter, happiness, and recognition. Understanding which needs are crucial and how these needs affect people's behavior is important to know. Teachers, leaders, businesses...everyone needs to be aware of needs.

Abraham Maslow

In the 1950s, a psychologist by the name of Abraham Maslow developed a theory called the hierarchy of needs. Maslow was one of the founders of humanistic psychology, which emphasizes the individual's potential and stresses the importance of growth and self-actualization. Maslow's theory grew out of his interest in developing a psychology that was not based in clinical studies, but rather focused on normal human growth and development.

Maslow developed a list that classified all needs into five general groups, and most importantly, he asserted that there was a hierarchy of these five groups of needs in terms of their importance for human development. The higher needs at the top of the hierarchy were most important for the development of personality; however, these higher needs could not be satisfied until the lower needs, or deficiency needs, such as the physiological needs and safety needs were satisfied. If two different needs were in conflict, the lower need would dominate.

Hierarchy of Needs Detailed

Maslow identified five levels of needs in his hierarchy: physiological needs, safety needs, social needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs.

Physiological needs include the most basic needs that are vital to survival, such as the need for water, air, food, and sleep. Maslow believed that these needs are the most basic and instinctive needs in the hierarchy because all needs become secondary until these physiological needs are met.

For example, an employer provides lunch breaks, rest breaks, and wages that are sufficient to purchase essentials. These address an employee's physiological needs.

Here is another example. Have you ever had a hard time paying attention to what the professor is saying when you are hungry? Some students may not have had breakfast or even dinner the night before. Free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs have been implemented in schools to help students meet some of their physiological needs.

The next level of needs are safety needs. These include needs for safety and security. These are important for survival, but they are not as demanding as the physiological needs.

An example in the business world are when employers provide a safe working environment, retirement benefits, and job security. In schools, an example of addressing safety needs include providing a safe and secure classroom and having a school resource officer on grounds. This reduces threats to student's physical, mental, and emotional security.

We now come to our third level, social needs. Sometimes these are referred to as the love and belonging needs. These include needs for belonging, love, and affection. Maslow considered these needs to be less basic than physiological and security needs.

Relationships such as friendships, romantic attachments, and families help fulfill this need for companionship and acceptance, as does involvement in social, community, or religious groups. In the workplace, employers help fulfill these needs by creating a sense of community via team-based projects and social events. When people's social needs are not met, they tend to be unhappy. This leads to loneliness, social anxiety, and depression.

After the first three needs have been satisfied, esteem needs become increasingly important. These include the need for things that reflect on self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition, and accomplishment.

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