Maslow’s pyramid is part of a psychological theory that questions motivation and human needs: what prompts us to act the way we do. According to Abraham Maslow, a humanist psychologist, our actions are born from a motivation directed towards the objective of meeting certain needs, which can be ordered by the importance they have for our well-being.
In other words, Maslow proposed a theory that there is a hierarchy of human needsAnd argued that when the most basic needs are met, we humans develop higher needs and wants. From this hierarchy, what is called Maslow’s pyramid is established.
Abraham Maslow first introduced the concept of the hierarchy of needs in his article “A Theory of Human Motivation” in 1943 and in his book “Motivation and Personality”. Later, the fact that this hierarchy was once represented graphically pyramid shaped publicized the core of the theory as Maslow’s pyramid, its popularity is remarkable even today, decades after its first proposal.
Maslow’s pyramid: what is it?
While some schools existing in the mid-twentieth century (psychoanalysis or behaviorism) focused on problematic behaviors and learned from a passive being and without too many options to influence the environment more than it influenced him, Maslow was more keen to learn what makes people happier and what can be done to enhance personal development and self-realization.
As a humanist, his idea was that people have an innate desire to fulfill themselves, to be what they want to be and that they have the ability to pursue their goals independently if they are in an environment. auspicious. However, the different objectives pursued at a given time depend on the objective achieved and on what remains to be achieved, according to the pyramid of needs. To aspire to self-actualization goals, the above needs such as food, safety etc. must first be covered. For example, we only care about issues related to self-actualization if we are convinced that we have a stable job, secure food, and friendships that accept us.
In Maslow’s pyramid, from the most basic needs to the most complex needs, this hierarchy is made up of five levels. The basic needs are located at the base of the pyramid, while the more complex needs are at the top.
Thus, the five categories of needs of Maslow’s pyramid are: physiological, security, affiliation, recognition and self-realization; being the physiological needs those of lower level, and raising the levels in the order indicated. Of course, as we have seen, the visual representation in the form of a pyramid is a further contribution to the approach of this explanatory model of Maslow. However, we will treat it here as if it were equivalent to the hierarchy of needs described by this psychologist.
Types of needs
In Maslow’s pyramid, this researcher speaks of the instinctive needs and distinguishes between “deficient” needs (physiological, security, affiliation, recognition) and “ongoing development” (self-actualization). The difference between the two is that “deficits” refer to a lack, while those of “development of the being” refer to the work of the individual. Meeting insufficient needs is important to avoid unpleasant consequences or feelings.
The needs of the “development of the being”, on the other hand, are important for personal growth and have nothing to do with the deficit of something, but with the desire to grow as a person.
So Maslow’s pyramid has 5 levels of needs. They are as follows.
1. Physiological needs
They understand the vital needs of the survival and are biological. Within this group, we find needs such as: need to breathe, drink water, sleep, eat, have sex, shelter.
Thus, in this layer of needs are those that allow the most fundamental biological processes that make the existence of the body viable. They cover the physiological functions that maintain balance in our tissues, cells, organs and in particular our nervous system.
Maslow thinks these needs are the most basic in the hierarchy, as other needs are secondary until those at this level are met.
2. Security needs
In this part of Maslow’s pyramid, security needs are included in life, but they are at a different level from physiological needs. That is, as long as the first are not satisfied, there is no second link of needs oriented towards the personal safety, Order, stability and protection.
We can say that the needs belong to this level of Maslow’s pyramid they have to do with expectations and with the way in which living conditions allow the development of medium and long term projects. They are based on a kind of “mattress” based both on property and rights and on social capital.
Here you will find: physical security, employment, income and resources, family, health, etc.
3. Affiliate requirements
Maslow describes these needs as less basic, and they make sense when the above needs are met.
For Maslow, this need is expressed when people seek to overcome feelings of loneliness and feel that there are emotional bonds between them and certain people. In other words, trying to transcend the individual sphere and establish links with the social environment.
These needs arise continually in everyday life when human beings manifest the desire to get married, start a family, join a community, join a church or attend a social club. Belonging to a group, whether small or small, helps to give meaning to what is done in everyday life, as well as the personal contact and social relationships that foster these bonds stimulate us to d ‘in a way that, for Maslow, the resulting experience describes as a necessity.
Examples of these needs are mutual love, affection, and membership or affiliation with a certain social group.
4. Recognition needs
This level of the hierarchy of human needs is also known as the need for esteem, and it has to do with how we value ourselves and others, the rest of society.
After covering the needs of the first three levels of Maslow’s pyramid, there are recognition needs such as those that promote self-esteem building, self-recognition, personal fulfillment, and respect for others. . to meet these needs, the person feels confident and thinks valuable in society. When these needs are not met, people feel inferior and worthless.
This need for Maslow’s hierarchy is best understood as a way to feel good about our self-concept through those things about ourselves that we see reflected in the way others treat us.
According to Maslow, there are two needs for recognition: one for inferiority, which includes respect for others, the need for status, fame, glory, recognition, attention, reputation and dignity; and a superior, who determines the need for self-respect, including feelings such as self-confidence, competence, achievement, independence and freedom.
Thus, this level of hierarchy of human needs is based on all these advantages of enjoying a good status in the eyes of others.
5. Self-actualization needs
Finally, at the highest level are the needs for self-realization and development of internal needs, Spiritual and moral development, search for a mission in life, selfless help to others, etc.
This level of Maslow’s pyramid is one of Ranks in the Maslow hierarchy needs that are more difficult to define, as these are very abstract goals that are not achieved with specific actions, but with chains of actions that take place over relatively long periods of time. Therefore, each individual will have different and personalized self-actualization needs.
Reviews of Maslow’s pyramid
Although some research supports Abraham Maslow’s theory, most of the data collected in many research they don’t seem to go in the same line than Maslow’s pyramid. For example, Wahba and Bridwell (1986) conclude that there is little evidence to demonstrate the hierarchy postulated by Maslow, although it is still very popular today.
Outraged, Maslow’s pyramid has also been criticized for its difficulty in proving its concept of self-actualization, As it is very abstract. After all, in science it is necessary to specify very well the meaning of words and to propose “operational” implications, and if a concept leaves a lot of room for interpretation, it is not possible to carry out studies. research aimed at studying it, or drawing conclusions from it. Many of the concepts and categories described in Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs are too ambiguous to be studied scientifically.
In a study published in 2011, researchers at the University of Illinois tested Maslow’s pyramid and found that meeting the pyramid’s needs correlated with a person’s happiness. But this research, unlike Maslow’s theory, concluded that the needs for recognition and self-actualization were also important even if the most basic needs were not met. He therefore questioned the sequentiality proposed by Maslow in his theory: it was not necessary to have complete basic needs to aspire to achieve the goals related to the more refined needs.
On the other hand, Maslow’s research was based on a very small, possibly unrepresentative sample of individuals. The critique of his methodology refers to the fact that he himself chose the people he considered to be realized by himself, after reading about them or talking to them and drawing conclusions about what the self-realization. In fact, the people Maslow interviewed during his completion of his pyramid of needs can hardly represent the majority of the human population, as they were people of Western culture, wealthy, or very influential. Some of the people he researched are Albert Einstein or Eleanor Roosevelt. Maslow’s pyramid was created from studying exceptional cases, rather than what is normal in human populations.
The relevance and legacy of this theory
Regardless of these criticisms, Maslow’s pyramid represents an important contribution in a change of vision in psychology and helped establish a third force within the profession (the other two main forces were psychoanalysis and behaviorism). His approach to psychology and to life in general inspires an enthusiasm, which is no longer based on the assumption that people are passive beings, nor does it focus on pathological behaviors. The study of motivations and patterns of behavior unrelated to mental disorders has become a sign that psychology shouldn’t be limited to mental health.
On the other hand, Maslow’s work was a first attempt to study something very important: the common good, These contextual elements which are a priority for all. If the need to have access to food is one of the most important aspects for people, it is possible to propose models of space management that take this principle into account.
In addition, Maslow’s pyramid had a great impact not only on psychology, but was also important in the business world (especially in marketing, but also in the world of human resources) or in sports, for example. The fact that it establishes a hierarchy of needs provides a simple and intuitive way to plan to motivate and generate compelling products based on the type of people you want to influence.
Current scientific psychology must continue to investigate what motivates us and drives us to aspire to goals, and Maslow’s pyramid may not be a construct to properly explain how we act, but at least it’s a first brick in this type of study and can be used. for reference. Of course, we must continue to work to generate specific concepts that lend themselves to scientific research, beyond calling for vague ideas that may mean different things to each individual.
- Boeree, George. (2003). Personality theories, by Abraham Maslow. Translation: Rafael Gautier.
- Camí Roca, JL (2013). The origins of humanistic psychology: transactional analysis in psychotherapy and education. Madrid: CCS.
- Mahmoud A. Wahba, Lawrence G. Bridwell. (2004). Maslow Reconsidered: A Review of Research on Hierarchy of Needs Theory. Baruch College, University of the City of New York, United States.
- Maslow, AH (1982). Creative personality. Barcelona: Kairós.
- Roser Cortés, R. (1986). Personal development (or self-actualization): objective of humanistic psychotherapies. Anuari de psicologia / The UB Journal of psychology. No .: 34.