Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

Abraham Maslow created a hierarchy of needs in 1943 called Theory of Human Motivation.  Today we know it as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is a scale that shows the different needs that people need. There are certain needs that must be met before others can be actualized and so you have a hierarchy of needs. It is kind of like the song that Tevye sings in Fiddler On The Roof,  “If I were a rich man.” Tevye says if I were a rich man he could do many things even study the holy book. In other words if his basic needs like food and protection were taken care of he could focus more on his spirituality.

So there are several levels within the hierarchy and it starts off with the Physiological level that includes Breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, and excretion.  Maslow proposed that if these needs are not met a person will not have any desire or motivation to even look at other needs that he may or may not need. These are the very basic of needs that must be met in order to survive.

The next level is Safety, which includes security of: body, employment, resources, morality, the family, health, and property. Once a person’s physical needs are met they can move onto meeting their safety needs.  Think about what happens to people when these needs are not being met such as during natural disaster, war, terrorist attacks, family violence, childhood abuse, and economic crisis. I think we are all familiar with one or more of these especially right now during the economic crisis.

The next step is love/Belonging, which includes friendship, family, and sexual intimacy.  This is an interesting need because at times it overrides the other needs in the hierarchy especially in childhood. There was an experiment done with monkeys in which a baby monkey had to choose between food and the comfort of a mother monkey. The monkey chose the comfort over the food. So this level is very powerful when going off of instinct alone. It is also a good lesson too parents that attention is one of the things that kids crave the most.

Okay that is enough for today I will talk about the rest tomorrow. Are the needs of your characters being met? What are your thoughts on the hierarchy?


  1. I remember being fascinated with this theory when I first read about it years ago. Thanks for posting this!

  2. i use maslow all the time in my can only move as high as the piece that is missing this def plays a role as you think through the issues of your characters as well..

  3. This is great! It helps figure out what things you can use as obstacles by taking simple needs away from the character.

  4. I get a bit of a rash when I see Maslow's old pyramid - seemed to come up on every uni course I studied, whether it was for marketing, psychology, teaching or literature studies. I suspect Maslow is mocking me with that tiny top of the triangle that seems unattainable. *shakes fist at Maslow*
    Monkey studies was cute though :)
    Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

  5. This is a great concept, thanks for sharing! It reminds me alot of the "love languages" and speaking each others language to help meet their needs. And it really is so true and neat to think about children just wanting our attention- I need to be better at that :)

  6. Thanks for the good explanation. Here is a visual representation of the Maslow's hierarchy that you may find useful.

  7. I really appreciate this. I wonder what happens if a need is met temporarily, then not? Are you motivated by the next level for awhile, then fall back? I'm guessing the answer is that the need should continue to be met to be motivated at the next level. Any thoughts?

  8. Thanks for the questions anonymous. People move up and down within the hierarchy. You are correct that they may stay on the higher level for a time, but once the lower needs are no longer being met they fall back down to the lower levels. Take for example a person who has their needs met on the lower levels and becomes more concerned with others and helping others. Crisis hits and the person no longer has a home or food. That person is no longer going to be concerned about others (as much) but about his/her own needs being met. Great question!


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