Maslow’s Pyramid: Human Needs (with Pictures)

The p irámide Maslow  or hierarchy of human needs ands a graphic representation that indicates that the actions that people carry out are motivated by a series of needs, from the most basic to the most advanced.

It is a theory of the psychologist Abraham Maslow on human motivation. According to Maslow, human needs are shaped like a pyramid or scale, so that people first seek to meet the most basic or primary needs (those found at the base of the pyramid).

As people are reaching each type of need, motivations are being replaced by those immediately higher until the need is achieved last, that of the top of the pyramid.

For example, a married woman, with a good job, in love with her husband and respected in her work, would have met the physiological needs, security, affiliation and recognition. You may feel like a writer and feel self-fulfilling writing a book, although you have not yet met the latter need.

Who was Abraham Maslow?

Abraham Maslow was one of the most influential American psychologists in the second half of the 20th century. He is known for or being one of the leading representatives of the humanistic psychology movement In fact, he is considered by many to be the founder of this current.

Maslow formulated a motivational theory in which he was interested in the psychological functioning of the individual and in the forces that drive the individual. human being carry out certain actions.

Maslow was an author concerned with discovering the personal development and self-realization of the human being. It was important to him to find out what he was doing by being human grow up.

This author considered that all people have an innate desire to fulfill themselves. The RAE defines self-realization as the “achievement satisfaction of personal aspirations by their own means ”.

Maslow considered that the human being moves to achieve this self-realization, to achieve to become who he wants to be.

However, he argued that to achieve this motivation, which is the last for the human being, the individual must satisfy other needs that are They find ahead such as food, security or belonging to a group.

If a person is hungry, does not have a roof to sleep or a job to secure a salary, Maslow believes that he will take care of it first. rather than achieving personal fulfillment.

Maslow’s pyramid background


At the end of the 50s and the beginning of the 60s we find, on the one hand, behavioral psychology . This considered the human being as a passive subject, that is, the individual was like a responding machine to a stimulus.

On the other hand, we find psychoanalysis, which saw the human being as a defenseless being, determined by his unconscious conflicts. It is then, in the context of these two predominant paradigms, that what we call “the third force” or the current of psychology arises. humanist.

Humanistic psychology aims to integrate the prevailing paradigms of the moment, psychoanalysis and behaviorism and thus, to be able to develop a psychology empirically based systematic.

Maslow is considered by many as the founder of this current. It was precisely the positive aspects of humanity that awakened his interest.

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

Maslow considers the person as an active being and was a revolution in psychology not only because of the arrival of the third force, but also because it focuses on the psychopathological behaviors of the person as psychology had been doing until now.

The most important influences on Maslow’s thought are psychoanalysis, social anthropology , Gestalt, and the work of Goldstein.

He was concerned that the knowledge we had about human behavior and motivation came from psychopathology. However, for Maslow these patients did not reflect the motivations of the general population.

In this way, in his theory he managed to combine psychoanalysis, behaviorism and humanistic psychology. For him there is no focus superior to the rest, all they are relevant and necessary.

Maslow’s Pyramid Theory

Within his motivational theory, Maslow proposed in 1943 the well-known “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”, published in the article entitled “A Theory of Human Motivation”.

Maslow postulates that human needs are organized in a hierarchical or pyramidal fashion. So that needs are met progressively, which it means that the needs that are located at the base of the pyramid would have priority over those placed above.

When the needs of the base are covered, the human being would go on to search for the satisfaction of the next section of the pyramid.

That is, the satisfaction of subordinate needs generates other higher needs in the human being, which are not considered to be satisfied while the immediately preceding ones are not covered.

Maslow’s pyramid is divided into five levels or strata. These strata are arranged hierarchically according to the importance of the needs to be covered.

This means that higher needs are subordinate to lower ones. Thus, the different needs that Maslow proposes are: physiological needs, security, love, recognition and self-realization.

Different studies have been carried out based on Maslow’s Pyramid. It has been applied to the world of organizations, for example.

Another of the studies tried to relate Maslow’s different needs with the happiness of human beings, concluding that there was a correlation between the pyramid and happiness.

What is this theory for?

This theory serves to know the motivations that a person may have at a time in their life.

A young, single person who still lives with their parents would not have the same motivations as someone with a long career, with a successful relationship and with children.

The first person might first look for a job, love, and a home. The second would tend to seek more self-realization, trying to achieve personal goals such as writing a book, being a better person or “dreams” that previously could not be due to having to meet lower needs.

Types of needs

Physiological needs

Those that are at the base of the pyramid. They are those that refer to satisfying the minimum conditions that allow the human being to function.

It is everything that concerns food, thirst, breathing, rest, sex, shelter and homeostasis (balance of the body, the effort made by the body automatically to maintain a constant and normal state).

If a person does not perceive that these needs are met, he will not feel an impulse to meet the needs immediately higher, since his motivation would be aimed at covering the physiological ones.

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

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

These needs are the most basic, the most powerful, and the least meaningful for the person in search of self-fulfillment.

Security needs

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

They refer to the needs that allow maintaining order and vital security. Here security becomes the dominating force personality.

The human being has the need for security, but only if his physiological needs have been satisfied before. We find the need for stability of order, protection and dependency.

Many times the human being shows the need for security through fear of different things. The person is afraid of uncertainty, confusion, to what you do not know. And all this reflects the fear of lack of security.

Within these needs we could find the concern to save, to buy goods, to have a predictable future, that there is no risk for the personal or family integrity.

Many people only go up to this level.

Love, affiliation, or social needs

The human being is a social animal. Therefore, once the aforementioned needs have been covered, the need to belong to a group.

Human beings need to feel that they are part of a certain organization, but these needs are “less basic” or “more complex” than previously mentioned.

This need is subordinate to satisfying physiological and safety needs as a priority. Within the need for affiliation we find affection, love, the fact of belonging to a group, rooting ourselves to a land and thus stop feel alone.

We could find examples in the fact of fforming a family, having a group of friends, being part of social groups, a group of neighbors, having children, etc.

It should also be noted that the individualism inherent to this society and the competitiveness that characterizes it would go against this need.

Need for recognition or esteem

Every human being needs to have an appreciation of himself, a need for self – esteem or recognition. These needs are associated with the psychological constitution of the human being himself.

This self-esteem is in part built on the esteem of others. The human being needs to recognize himself, have self-esteem, feel safe and valid within society.

If the person cannot satisfy this need, feelings of unhappiness, low self-esteem often arise , people consider themselves inferior to others.

Within the need for esteem, Maslow distinguishes between:

a) Lower need for esteem : it is a lower need, which includes the respect of others for oneself, dignity, the attention of others, maintain reputation, have fame, status.

b) Higher need for esteem : includes self-respect for oneself, including one’s own competence, achievement, being independent, having self-confidence and being free.

Self-actualization needs

The need for self-realization is at the top of the pyramid proposed by Maslow. They are metaneeds, higher or more subjective needs.

In the process of human development there is a tendency to fulfill the desire to be more and more human. They are needs that are difficult to describe but include the satisfaction of one’s own individuality in all aspects.

It means developing one’s own, internal and unique needs. This implies developing in a spiritual way, achieving moral development, find the meaning of one’s life, be altruistic .

People who seek self-realization must be free to be themselves. It includes the need to satisfy our personal capacities, develop our potential, do what we show greater aptitude for, expand metamotives (search for justice, produce order, beauty …).

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

For example, one of the aspirations that an individual can have and make him feel self-fulfilling may be to become a boss of his own. business, while for someone else it may be to start a family.

Within the need for development or self-realization, it is a necessary condition that the human being has satisfied all of the above. However, this does not guarantee in any way that the person will achieve self-realization.

Examples of each level


Some examples of physiological needs are eating, urinating, defecating, physical and mental rest, sexual intercourse.


Some examples of the need for security are having money to live, having clothes, having a home, and having medical care in case of illness.

Love affiliation

Examples of this need are having friends, good family relationships, and a loving relationship with a partner.


Examples of this need are being rewarded in the workplace, receiving a state award, winning a championship, receiving medals, being praised by the public, being admired.

Self realisation

Examples of this need are having achieved personal goals, making music, writing music, opening a business, doing philosophy, learning a sport, etc.

Characteristics of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

To understand Maslow’s theory we must take into account a series of assumptions that have to occur:

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

If a motivation or need is not satisfied, human behavior tends to satisfy it. As long as it does not, the human being will not move on to motivation following and therefore cannot be developed.

b) Therefore, not all people will be in the same place in the pyramid. Depending on personal circumstances, each person will be placed at one point in the pyramid.

c) Not all people will reach the last link or top of the pyramid, to self-realization. Some people may worry about achieving satisfy it while many other people will find themselves all their lives at lower levels.

d) The pyramid is a hierarchy, as we have already said. When some are satisfied, the following begin.

However, if at a certain moment and being in a higher link one of the lower ones ceases to be satisfied, tension arises in the organism.

This inferior unmet need is the one that will take control of the person, of their motivation and will dominate to organize and mobilize the organism to satisfy her.

e) Frustration when meeting different needs entails a threat to the body and these are the ones that produce an alarm reaction in the body and mobilize it.

Criticisms of Maslow’s theory

Maslow’s Pyramid theory has also received criticism. Authors such as Wahba and Bridwell (1976) reviewed the theory of hierarchy of needs.

The criticisms were directed precisely at the order of the hierarchy, since it is a central aspect in the theory that it is necessary to cover some needs to be able to develop the following.

However, these authors (and others who have also questioned it) consider that a pyramid-shaped order is not necessary when satisfying needs and that an individual could try to satisfy different needs at the same time.

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

Characteristics of Self-Realized People

Based on studies carried out with the theory of motivation and the hierarchy of needs in search of self-realization as a necessity Ultimately, Maslow established a series of characteristics that self-actualized people present.

The central concept of his theory is self-actualization. He defines it as “the realization of the potentialities of the person, to become fully human, becoming all that the person can be, contemplates the achievement of a full identity and individuality ”(Maslow, 1968).

It is about 16 traits that these people would show (few are those who manage to achieve it):

1. Be realistic about life and an efficient perception of reality

2. Accept, accept others and the world around them, that is, they show respect for themselves, others and nature

3. They are spontaneous, simple and natural

4. Problems arise that go beyond your immediate needs

5. Need for privacy but also solitude

6. They are independent, autonomous

7. Deep and non-stereotyped vision of the world

8. They can live spiritual experiences

9. They maintain deep and intimate relationships with others

10. They identify with humanity

11. They are creative people

12. They 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, that is, to contribute to humanity

Maslow does not explain in his theory the depth of transcendence, since few people manage to reach it.

For Maslow satisfying these needs and all the motivations that surround them is the impulse that leads people to develop in the different areas of life and develop your personality.

When a person fails to satisfy them, he is dissatisfied because frustrating and selfish feelings are produced in him. The person stagnates in the stage that cannot be satisfied.

The ideal is to reach self-realization, the top of the pyramid that allows the person to develop and unfold their full potential. However, very few succeed.

What do you think of human needs? Do you think Maslow’s pyramid is real?


  1. Camacho, JC (2016). Neuromarketing and its relationship with the hierarchy of needs by Abraham Maslow. Academic journal: contributions to the economy.
  2. Elizalde, A., Martí, M., Martínez, F. (2006). A critical review of the debate on human needs from the Person Centered Approach. Polis, 5, 15.
  3. Mayor, L., Tortosa, F. (2006). Third force: humanistic psychology. In Tortosa, F. And Civera, C. History of psychology, 419-429. McGraw Hill.
  4. Vázquez Muñoz, MP, Valbuena de la Fuente, F. Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of needs. Faculty of Information Sciences, Complutense University of Madrid.

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