Five Stages of Hierarchical Needs

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The purpose of this paper is to gain a deeper understanding of human needs and the gratification of that need based on Abraham H. Maslow’s theory of “Five Stages of Hierarchical Needs”. Maslow arranged these needs in the order in which man seeks to gratify them. The five levels of needs are: physiological, safety, belongingness and love, esteem and self-actualization. Maslow explained people remained at one level until all their needs for that level are satisfied then they proceed to satisfy the needs of the next level and so on.

Maslow, however, pointed out that in real life this may not be the case for real people will most likely be motivated in working toward need satisfaction on several levels at the same time. He also added that that it is rare that a person will be able to satisfy all five levels of need.

II. Reason for Maslows’s Model

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Man had inborn needs that that seeks to be gratified. Between 1943-54, Abraham H. Maslow, a psychology professor, presented five stages of hierarchical needs arranged in the order in which a person seeks to gratify them.

According to Maslow, the five levels he posited are based on clinical, observational and experimental facts (Maslow, 1954, pp. 80-106). He further stated that behavior of people is motivated by these five levels. The idea of different levels of human needs came to him when he realized that there are some needs that take precedence over others. For example, when a man is both hungry and thirsty, he would tend to satisfy first his need for water before he takes care of his need for food.

In fact, man can live without food for days but he cannot do so without water. It is because thirst is a “stronger” need than hunger. But if a thirsty man is being choked by someone, his need to breath takes precedence over his need to drink (Frager & Fadiman, 1998, p. 446).

III. Five Stages of Hierarchical

Needs Maslow further subdivides five human needs into two groups: first four is the level of deficiency needs (physiological, safety, belongingness and love, esteem) and the last is the level of growth needs (self-actualization).

1.Physiological The human need for food, drink, sex, shelter, air, warmth, sleep, etc. fall under this category. These are biological needs that man should not be deprived of. These are man’s strongest need that he seeks first to gratify first ( Maslow, 1943, p. 370-396)

2. Safety When the physiological needs are met, the need for safety follows. Examples of safety needs are security, protection, order, law, limits, stability, etc. This means that his attention would now turn to finding safe circumstances or to achieve some sort of stability. He may want to get married or to file a retirement plan. In a negative way, if he does not find safety he may be confronted with fears and anxieties (Boeree, 1998).

3. Belongingness and Love The need for attention, belonging to a group, acceptance, work group, family, affection, relationships, etc. falls under this need. When man’s physiological needs are met and he finds he is secure, he would now want friends, a sweetheart or children. He may want to join gangs or memberships in clubs or church. In other words, he finds himself increasingly interested in building affectionate relationships and a sense of community with others. If he does not have them, he may be faced with feelings of loneliness and social anxieties (Boeree, 1998).

4. Esteem After the above needs are taken cared of, man will then look for self-esteem. According to Maslow there are two kinds of esteem needs, a lower one and a higher one. The lower one is the need for the respect of others which may be gained by acquiring a high status, being famous or recognized, being a leader or having a good reputation.

The higher form involves the need for self-respect achieved through having feelings of confidence, competence, mastery or freedom. When the need for self-esteem is met, man would see himself as a person of worth. If he is deficient with it, he may struggle with low self-esteem or inferiority complexes (Boeree, 1998).

4. Self-Actualization

It is only when all the four needs are met that man would seek for self-actualization. According to Maslow, self-actualization is prompted by a person’s “need to be” and do that which the person was "born to do”.

Self-actualization involves the need for self-fulfillment, to achieve one’s highest potential and to seek for personal growth and peak experiences (“Maslow’s”, 2008). Some characteristics of a person who had achieved self-actualization includes being realistic, exercises objective rather than subjective judgment, see problems as challenges that needs to be solved rather than as obstacles or opportunities for complaints, not being easily swayed by the views or opinions of others, accepts others as they are rather than trying to change them or having the ability to laugh at himself in spite of who he is.

In a general sense, he is perceived to be a man who is emotionally, psychologically and mentally mature (Turner and Helms, 1987, p. 431). Maslow had provided examples of historical persons who, in his judgment, had achieved self-actualization. Among them are Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jane Adams, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson (Monte, 1999, p. 738).

4. Need Gratification and Human Motivation

As stated earlier, Maslow supports the idea that in gratifying their needs people remain at one level until all their needs at that level are satisfied.

When lower level needs are met, he then finds himself increasingly concerned in gratifying the next higher level needs. For example if a person is hungry or thirsty , he will exert all his efforts to satisfy his need for food or drink before proceeding to satisfy any other needs. After making sure that he is not hungry or thirsty anymore his attention will then turn to gratifying safety needs and so on. Maslow recognized, however, that in real life there is more flexibility than his model seems to imply.

In other words, real people in real life may not follow his order of need gratification for real people will most likely be motivated in working toward need satisfaction on several levels at the same time(Frager & Fadiman, 1998, p. 446). For example a person may seek to gratify his need for security and love at the same time. He may join gangs, clubs or church not only to satisfy his need to belong but also to gain the respect of others.

Furthermore, Maslow was quick to add that it is rare that a person will be able to satisfy all five levels of need because of dampened capacities due to hindrances imposed by society (Frager & Fadiman, 1998, p. 446). In spite of the fact that need gratification does not exactly follow the order of Maslow’s five stages of hierarchical needs (for need gratification of various levels may occur at the same time), in general, Maslow’s theory of five stages of hierarchical needs is useful in understanding why man want this or that. IV. Conclusion

Maslow’s “Five Stages of Hierarchical Needs” enumerates the five needs of man that must be gratified. Man have physiological needs, security needs, and belongingness and love needs, esteem needs and self-actualization needs. He stated that need gratification follows an order, the lower need must be satisfied first before man will seek to satisfy the next higher level of need. The order may not be true in real life however, for man may seek to satisfy different levels of need at the same time. However, in spite of that flaw, Maslow’s model of needs is useful in understanding what man wants.

V. References

  1. Boeree, George. ( 1998). Personality Theories: Abraham Maslow. George Boeree’s Homepage. Retrieved February 1, 2008 from http://webspace. ship. edu/cgboer/maslow. html
  2. Frager, R. & Fadiman, J. 1998, Personality and Personal Growth, Fourth Edition, Addison Wesley Longman, New York
  3. Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.
  4. Maslow, Abraham H. (1954). Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, Incorporated.
  5. “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”(2008). Taken from Psychology - The Search for Understanding by Janet A. Simons, et. al, published 1987. Honolulu Community College. Retrieved January 30,  2008 from http://honolulu. hawaii. edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/maslow. htm
  6. Monte, C. F. (1999). Beneath the Mask: An Introduction to Theories of Personality, Sixth Edition. Orlando: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.
  7. Turner, J. S. & Helms, D. B. (1987), Lifep Development, Third Edition. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

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Five Stages of Hierarchical Needs. (2018, Mar 30). Retrieved from

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