Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs


Maslow’s Five Tiered Hierarchy of Needs:

The theories of motivation are primarily laid into two categories. The first is that of the content theories. Content theories are mainly concerned with what motivates the people. The process theories on the other hand are concerned with how people are motivated to do certain things. The primary focus of the content theories are the factors that cause, sustain or stop a behavior in people.

Motivation has become a widely studied topic and the factors that motivate people to perform have a huge importance for businesses and business managers. The basis of the content theories is that an absence of motivational factors can give rise to tensions that make people act in ways other than desired.  The most well-known among the content theories are the theories given by Abraham Maslow, Clayton P Alderfer, Federick Herzberg and David C. McClelland.


maslow's hierarchy of needs

Maslow’s Needs hierarchy theory:

Abraham Harold Maslow was an American psychologist. He is best known for his needs theory.  The early theorists had focused on the factors behind motivation separately. Maslow tried to synthesize the body of research carried out before him. He gave a five tiered hierarchy of needs where he considered several categories of needs together.


These five tiers can be categorized into two main categories – the deficiency and the growth needs. According to Maslow’s theory every lower tier of deficiency needs should be satisfied before someone can move to the next tier.

  • Physiological needs: The physiological needs are at the lowest tier of the hierarchy. These are the most basic needs that everyone should fulfil for survival. Needs like air, food, water, shelter, dress etc are common human needs that everyone has to fulfil in order to survive. Maslow kept them at the bottom of the hierarchy because they are the most basic human needs. One cannot live hungry or thirsty or without rest. These physical needs grow stronger if they are denied for long. Moreover, they are the most important category of needs that motivates people.
  • Safety needs: The second tier in the hierarchy is that of the safety needs. Once the physiological needs are satisfied, one can move up towards the safety needs. Every person in his life needs security. It is essential for human life to sustain. Safety means protection from criminal elements, a fearless existence, protection by the law and protection from other threats. Safety is critical for every person and every person wants this need fulfilled. However, it is not as basic as the biological or physiological human needs.
  • Belongingness and love needs: The belongingness needs exist at the third tier of the hierarchy. These needs require satisfaction once the safety needs have been satisfied. Everybody desires acceptance and wants to belong to a group. Everyone wants affiliation because everyone needs affection. Friendship and trust are important things that cannot be done without. It is also a question of identity because everyone needs to identify with one or the other group. This need is satisfied by being a part of the society or another group like family, and workplace.
  • Esteem needs: After the love needs are the esteem needs. Self-respect and respect are important needs for everyone. Everyone wishes to have self esteem and wants being respected. Prestige is an important question for everyone in the society. However, these needs grow important only after the previous three tiers of needs have been satisfied. It matters more for the people who have satisfied the previous levels or are financially and physically secure and expect to be respected by others.
  • Self-Actualization: The last or the top most tier of needs is of self-actualization needs. Self-actualization concerns self-fulfillment. It is the top most level in the hierarchy and not everyone gets to reach this level. Most people remain trying to fulfil their deficiency needs all their lives. Self-actualization means having touched the peak. People who have fulfilled the deficiency needs strive for growth. They try to achieve their full potential. However, this is a stage that most people find difficult to reach in their lives.