Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Paul Main

What does Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs mean for your classroom?

What is Maslow's hierarchy of needs?

In the 1940s, the American psychologist, Abraham H. Maslow, proposed that the process of human decision-making is strengthened by a psychological needs hierarchy. In Abraham Maslow's initial psychological review paper A Theory of Motivation and a 1954 psychological review publication 'Motivation and Personality,' Abraham Maslow theorized that there are five core needs that provide the foundation for human motivation for behavior.

Maslow was more interested in studying people like Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt rather than neurotic or mentally ill people. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs offers a charted set of humans' higher-level needs that are important for a person to achieve self-actualization and complete development.

In those days many schools of thought —such as behaviorism and psychoanalysis —were more inclined to problematic human behavior. However, Maslow showed more interest in discovering about what can be done to achieve happiness and what makes everyone happy.

Maslow was a Humanistic Psychology professor, so he acknowledged that individuals have a natural desire for self-actualization i.e. to become everything they can be. To achieve this ultimate goal, their basic needs and satisfactions must be met. These involve the need to get food, self-esteem, love, food, as well as safety.

Abraham H. Maslow thought that these needs play a vital role in developing motivated behavior in humans. Maslow's Hierarchy of needs includes five basic levels. The primary needs level is referred to as Physiological needs.

Exploring the hierarchy of needs

1.  Physiological needs

According to Maslow's psychological review publication, physiological needs are those that are essential for survival. The following are examples of physiological needs:

  • Water
  • Food
  • Homeostasis
  • Breathing

Physiological needs also include clothing, temperature regulation, and air. Maslow included sexual desire in the physiological level of the hierarchy, fulfilment of sexual desire is vital for basic need satisfaction and the propagation and survival of the species.

  1. Security and Safety Needs

According to Maslow's psychological review publication, these are present in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs second developmental level where the needs begin to become a little more complex. Maslow states that everyone wants to achieve order and control in their lives. Following are a few of the basic security and safety needs:

  • Health and wellness;
  • Financial security;
  • Safety against injury and accidents.

Safety and security needs also include signing up for a health care plan and health insurance, job hunt, and migrating to a safer neighborhood.

Collectively, the physiological and safety levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs construct what is frequently indicated as "basic needs."

  1. Social Needs

These mainly include belonging, acceptance and love. Social needs are primary driven by the desire to build emotional relationships. Following are a few examples of what satisfies social needs:

  • Friendships;
  • Family relationships;
  • Social groups;
  • Romantic attachments;
  • Community groups.

The feeling of love and acceptance from others reduces anxiety, depression and loneliness. For people, building personal relationships with family, friends, and lovers Fb as much important, as does participating in different community activities.


  1. Esteem Needs

These are present at the fourth level in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. These include the need for

  • appreciation;
  • respect;
  • Personal worth
  • Self-esteem.

After satisfying the basic goals present at the bottom three levels, esteem needs play an important role in motivating behaviour. At esteem needs level, it becomes crucial to achieve appreciation and respect from others. People have the conscious desire to achieve goals and then have their efforts acknowledged.

The act of contributing to the world, makes people happy. Esteem needs can be accomplished through participating in team work, and academic or professional activities.

When people can fulfill esteem needs by achieving recognition of others and good self-esteem, they tend to gain confidence in their abilities. Conversely, when people do not get the respect of others, they are likely to develop feelings of inferiority.

Jointly, the social and esteem levels compose what is called "psychological needs."

  1. Self-Actualization Needs

These are present at the very peak of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. People with self-actualization seem to be self-aware, they have conscious motivations for personal growth, and are less bothered by others' opinions, and are often interested in achieving their maximum potential.

Abraham Maslow’s basic goals of self-actualization needs are loosely interpreted as the utmost exploitation and use of talents, potentialities, and capabilities. These people appear to be doing the best that they can do. These people have developed or are still developing to the highest level of what they are capable of.

Rethinking student support through Maslow'ss hierarchy of needs
Rethinking student support through Maslows hierarchy of needs

Progressing through the Pyramid of Needs

According to Behavioral & Brain Sciences, Maslow's hierarchy of needs is frequently illustrated as a pyramid. The most complex needs are present at the top of the pyramid; whereas the lowest levels of the pyramid are characterized by the most basic behavior in animals and humans and their need for satisfaction.

After accomplishing the lower-level needs, people are ready to progress up to the needs at the next level of the pyramid. As individuals climb up the hierarchy, needs turn increasingly social and psychological.

At the peak of the hierarchy, the feelings of accomplishment and the need for personal esteem gain importance. Maslow gave importance to self-actualization, which involves developing and growing as an individual to gain individual potential.

How can we use Maslow's Hierarchy of needs in education?

According to Behavioral & Brain Sciences Maslow’s hierarchy serves as a model for how learners are motivated towards learning. Without achieving the lowest level of the hierarchy, a student cannot attain the next level. Every level offers students with the conscious motivation and ability to increase. Every student may move high in the hierarchy through the proper support of the school staff and teachers by focusing on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in education and teaching.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs can be used to improve learning through motivated behavior. When each level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is fulfilled, learners show their eagerness and maximum ability to learn. The higher up a student in the hierarchy is, the better the enthusiasm and thus the student will demonstrate more effective learning outcomes.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs pdf

This article explains what Maslow's hierarchy of human needs means in the classroom. It provides examples of how teachers can incorporate this theory into their teaching methods. We have put together a visual display that summarises the key idea for busy teachers. Applying these needs to a child in the classroom will require adaptation to both the age and environment.

This theory helps us understand why certain behaviors occur in individuals. For instance, if a student doesn't feel safe at school, they may become anxious and nervous which may lead to them avoiding classes and ultimately end up with low levels of academic progress.

This theory also helps teachers understand students' behaviors. Teachers should try to address students' lower levels of needs first. If a teacher notices that a student isn't feeling comfortable in school, they should work with them to identify some practical solutions. Teachers might ask parents to talk to the leadership team about making changes to the school environment.

Teachers should also pay close attention to students' higher levels of needs. Students who don't feel valued by others may not do well academically because they won't value themselves. So, teachers should encourage students to participate in class discussions, volunteer for extra-curricular activities, and even give presentations.

What are the different Types of Needs?

Maslow's hierarchy of needs or hierarchy of prepotency is divided into two kinds of needs. These include:

  1. Deficiency needs: These encompass the social, physiological, safety and esteem needs. They arise as a result of deprivation. It is essential to satisfy these lower-level needs to prevent negative feelings or outcomes.
  2. Growth needs: These are the needs at the top developmental level of the pyramid. This type of need does not arise from a deficiency of something, but rather from a feeling to grow as a person.

According to Behavioral & Brain Sciences even though the theory is typically described as a relatively rigid hierarchy, Maslow observed that the order to fulfil these needs does not always demonstrate this standard development.

For instance, Maslow reported that some people give more importance to the need for love than the need for self-esteem. For some, the conscious desires for creative achievement may replace even the most basic need satisfactions.

What are some of the real-life examples of Maslow's hierarchy of Needs?

Below are some everyday life examples of Maslow’s hierarchy of prepotency :

  • Eating, and Drinking
  • Cleansing, and Dressing
  • Breathing, exceeding and sexual behavior
  • Academic results
  • Job security and employment
  • Stable environment and salary
  • Friends and family
  • Benefits and pension
  • Appraisals and job titles
  • Creativity and Acceptance

Maslow in the classroom
Maslow in the classroom

What are the main criticisms of Maslow’s Theory?

According to Behavioral & Brain Science professionals, Maslow's theory is prevalent both in and out of brain sciences and developmental psychology. The fields of business and education have been especially influenced by Maslow's theory. However, like other theories, this theory is also not without criticism. Some of these objections are as follows:

1. It does not follow a hierarchy: According to Brain Sciences research, some researchers have supported Maslow's theories, but most of the researchers have not been successful in verifying the concept of a hierarchy of needs. Hence, there is little brain sciences evidence for Maslow's order of these needs and much lesser evidence that these needs are arranged in a hierarchical order.

2. It is difficult to test the theory: Some critics of Maslow's theory reported that Maslow's self-actualization definition is hard to prove scientifically. Abraham H. Maslow's research on self-actualization was based on a minimal sample, including some famous individuals, some people he knew and biographies of successful individuals like Abraham Lincoln he believed to be self-actualized.

Some of the modern-day critiques imply that he was inspired by the Blackfoot nation's belief systems, but did not disclose this. As an anthropologist, Maslow investigated the Northern Blackfoot tribe. According to his critics, even though he was there to assess the Blackfoot nation's concepts, he misused them.

Despite these criticisms, Maslow’s hypothesis considered a crucial shift in positive psychology. Instead of concentrating on abnormal behavior in animals and humans, Maslow addressed the healthy people development.

According to Brain Sciences researchers, there has been fairly little research validating Maslow's theory of hierarchy of prepotency yet it is famous both inside and outside of developmental psychology.

Researchers at the University of Illinois put Maslow's hierarchy to the test. They discovered that the accomplishment of basic need satisfactions is correlated with pleasure. People belonging to different cultures reported that social needs and self-actualization are important, even if basic-level needs are not met. Their study outcomes show that psychological needs do not essentially demonstrate the hierarchical structure that Maslow illustrated.

What is the expanded Hierarchy of Needs?

In 1970, Maslow added three more needs at the top of his original hierarchy to include three additional higher-level needs at the top of his pyramid, making a total of eight:

1. Cognitive needs: These are at the sixth level on the expanded Hierarchy of Needs. At the sixth level cognitive needs focuses on knowledge. According to Brain Sciences researchers, people at the sixth level of hierarchy, want to learn and explore new things and know the world around them. According to Brain Sciences the inability to fulfill cognitive needs may make it hard to achieve self-actualization. Self-actualization is related to personal growth and is a more complex method of understanding and gaining knowledge.

2. Aesthetic needs. This is related to the desire for pleasing surroundings and beauty in life. Esteem needs can be accomplished through participating in team work, academic or professional activities.

3. Transcendence needs. Maslow believed that people have the desire to move beyond themselves. The expanded hierarchy has transcendence over Self-Actualization, putting it at the topmost level in the hierarchy. People striving to accomplish their Transcendent needs are sure about their lower-level needs are met satisfactorily and that they care about others' needs.

Final thoughts on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's hierarchy of human needs is a great framework for understanding human psychology. It helps us understand our motivations and desires. It's also helpful for understanding how we should treat others.

For example, if you were trying to motivate someone to work harder at something, you might try using Maslow's hierarchy of human need to figure out what motivates them. You might find that they are motivated by basic physiological needs, such as food and water. Or maybe they are motivated by social needs, such as feeling accepted by their peers.

You may not agree with every aspect of Maslow's theory, but it does give us a framework for understanding learner motivation making it a powerful tool for understanding human psychology.