5 Levels of Hierarchy Of Needs by Maslow’s Theory- Self Actualization & Humanistic Psychology

What is the Hierarchy of Needs by Abraham Maslow?

Also known as Maslow’s theory of motivation or Maslow’s need hierarchy. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory was developed by a physiologist named Abraham Maslow. He was developing the theory and introduced it to the public in 1943 through his proposed paper titled “A Theory of Human Motivation”. Since it was introduced to the public, it has made a significant impact on every life aspect in people’s life. This approach will provide more spirit and inspiration to individuals so that they can live their lives very well.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is describing the reality of most people’s life experiences accurately. This theory is very popular among people because Maslow’s need hierarchy describes it with some features of experience that people might have had in their life so they can understand it and they can behave and identify the situation by using the hierarchy of needs theory.

Biography of Abraham Maslow

abraham maslow hierarchy of needs theory
Abraham Maslow portrait

Maslow’s theory has become the best motivational theory among people for many years now. But we only know his theory and we did not know the Biography of Abraham Maslow. Here is the Biography of Abraham Maslow.

Abraham Maslow has the full name, Abraham Harold Maslow. He was born in Brooklyn, New York City on the first of April 1908. He is the first child in his family and he has six siblings. His parents were uneducated Jewish people who actually were immigrants from Russia. 

His parents wanted him to be a successful person and that was why little Maslow liked to read books. As he grew older, he studied law for the first time at the City College of New York (CCNY), moved to Cornell after three semesters, and then returned to CCNY. His wife Bertha Goodman was his first cousin and he has two children in his marriage with Bertha.

Maslow became interested in psychology when he was moving to Wisconsin. Maslow got his BA in 1930, his MA in 1931, and his PhD in 1934, all from the University of Wisconsin in psychology. He moved back to New York one year after he got his PhD and began teaching at Brooklyn College. In the 1943s, Maslow introduced his proposed paper titled ‘A Theory of Motivation’ to the public which is now more popular with the ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ Maslow’s theory.

Maslow became the chair of the psychology department in Brandeis from 1951 to 1969. Abraham Maslow died on the eighth of June 1970 because of a heart attack in his retirement life in California.

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Abraham Maslow theory

Abraham Maslow was a humanistic psychologist who did not believe in mechanical forces that push and pull the human which is one of the stimuli of behavior and psychoanalyze. The humanistic physiologists believe in the human potential that humans can struggle to reach success. Humans are looking for creativity to reach the highest wisdom and also logical thought. People who can reach the highest wisdom and also the logical think are categorized into fully functioning persons, healthy personalities, or self-actualization as Maslow mentioned in his hierarchy of needs theory.

Maslow developed the theory based on instinct which is almost similar to the animal instinct. Humans start their life from a weak position or known as the infant, and when they grow older. Maslow thinks that if infants live in a good environment, they will grow up well and have good behaviour.

Humanists beliefs

Maslow was a humanistic psychologist. Humanists do not believe that mechanical force, one of the stimuli and reinforcements (behaviourism) or conscious instinctual impulses (psychoanalysis) push and pull human beings into it. Humanists focus on the potential. They believe that man is trying to level up his abilities. Man’s search for the limits of creativity, the highest reaches of consciousness and wisdom. It has been labelled “fully functioning person”, “healthy personality”, or as Maslow calls this level, “the self-actualization.”

Maslow’s Pyramid- 5 levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy

Also known as the Maslow triangle. The theory of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is split into five different levels of basic needs. The highest position of all is among those five levels of basic human needs. This includes understanding, aesthetic appreciation and purely spiritual needs. In these five levels of human basic needs, people do not need to feel satisfied until their next requirement.

The five levels of human basic needs are drawn in a pyramid shape that includes physiological needs on the lowest floor, security needs in the second floor, needs of love, affection and ownership on the next floor, esteem needs on the fourth floor, and the last is self-actualization needs in the top of the hierarchy

This was the hierarchy of needs theory​​. All basic needs are instinctive, the equivalent of instincts in animals. Humans start with a very weak disposition which then fully as a person grows old. People can grow straight and beautiful when the environment is perfect, actualizing the ability they have inherited. They will not grow tall and straight and beautiful if the environment is not “true” (and mostly does not exist).

Theory of Motivation examples

1. Physiological Needs

It is a biological need. They consist of oxygen, food, water, and relatively constant body temperature. They are strong needs because if a person is given all the needs, physiological which will come first in someone’s quest for satisfaction.

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2. Safety Needs

The need for safety may become active when all physiological needs are met and thoughts and behaviours are no longer monitored. Except in crises or times of disorganization in the social system (such as widespread rioting), adults had little knowledge of their security needs. Kids also show signs of fear and need to be safe.

3. Love/Belonging Needs

The next class of needs for love, affection and ownership will emerge when the need for protection and physiological well-being is fulfilled. Maslow notes that individuals are seeking to conquer feelings of isolation and alienation. This involves both and receives love, affection and a sense of belonging

4. Esteem Needs

When the three first-class needs are met, the need for the price can be dominant. This involves the need for a person’s self-esteem and to get respect from others. When these needs are fulfilled, individuals in the world feel secure and important. The individual feels inferior, fragile, helpless and worthless in the case of frustration.

5. Self-Actualization Needs

The need for self-actualization is activated when all the above needs are met. A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must compose, “Maslow defines self-actualization as a person’s needs to be and do what they are born to do. “These needs make themselves felt in signs of restlessness.” These needs make them feel signs of restlessness. In other words, is the need and desire to act in accordance with the talents and interests

Self-Actualization explained

Self-actualization is a process by which people fulfil their potential or they seek internal growth. It can be called enlightenment or personal development but it’s the final thing we are motivated to seek in our life.

Imagine that we can become the best version of ourselves possible, who would that person look like? 

How much money would they make? 

How many people would they help? 

Well, the path to that best imaginary person is the act of self-actualization.

Self-Actualization definition

The process by which people fulfil their potential for goodness and maximize their internal growth.

So does that tie into personality?

According to many behaviourists, humans do not have much control over their personalities and, like any other animal species on the planet, they may be subjected to conditioning but Maslow didn’t agree with it.

According to Maslow, in order to work toward Self-Actualization, humans have to reflect on who they currently are and what they need to do or to change in order to move forward. 

Carl Rogers was a humanist psychologist who focused on this process. For the most part, he agreed with Moslow’s theories but he pushed further to study how people actually satisfy these complex needs. What do they actually do, and what thought processes are happening? Maslow focused on ‘what’ and Carl Rogers focused on ‘how’. 

So whatever a person thinks about their personality, they may tell themselves that they are honest, generous and agreeable. These characteristics are all subjective now and may not be the way that other individuals see the deeds or personalities of this type of person. This disconnection or incongruence can now prevent individuals from achieving self-actualization and can trigger some form of anxiety. 

So how does this happen?

Our minds are very selective about what they want to see, and what they want to do and recall. So an individual who only thinks they are nice may unintentionally choose to remember positive pleasant experiences or may even misunderstand circumstances in which they did not actually show pleasant behaviour. Their entire perspective shifts.

How can we develop a more objective sense of ourselves within this world and actually try to reach self-actualization?

Let’s talk about humanistic studies. Maslow and Rogers researched individuals who they felt were experiencing some sort of self-actualization to address these kinds of questions. These individuals have been very influential and have spent their lives trying to uplift society as a whole.

Now, this approach of studying healthy successful people was a big change in the world of personality psychology and religious psychology in general.

Before that behaviourists and other personality psychologists at the time turned to studying more people who made poor decisions in their life or maybe had poor mental health. Humanists took a more optimistic approach to their subjects and the people they studied.

What do we need to do to become Self-Actualized?

To become positive members of society, Carl Rogers concluded that people need to live in an environment with the following qualities

  1. Openness
  2. Opportunities for self-Disclosure
  3. Acceptance 
  4. Empathy

If someone grew up in this type of environment they are much more likely to hold congruent views of themselves that actually match how the rest of the world sees them. There is not going to be too much cognitive dissonance. 

Conversely, if someone grew up in a more hostile or negative environment they are most likely to see the things that they want to see.

Rogers uses the example of parents showing conditional and unconditional love. Children were more likely to hold congruent beliefs of themselves as they grew up in a household with unconditional affection and were actually on a stronger road to self-actualization.

And the children who received conditional love were more likely to block out times when they were not loved. 

An example of conditional love would be a parent showing love to a child who gets good grades but stopping showing love whenever the child brings home a C grade. Now this pattern is likely to continue as an adult. The process of only seeing parts of a situation or maybe misconstruing a situation is likely to continue as input in a more positive environment.


The humanistic approach to personality is very positive. Humanists believe that freedom, empathy and a truly optimistic community will begin to build congruent perceptions of themselves and who they are and progress towards self-actualization in reality.

The field of psychology has had a very positive influence on humanistic psychology. People should see a therapist that uses a humanistic approach to their practice. This is often called Gestalt Therapy. Gestalt therapy uses an approach that views the patient and the therapist as equals. 

The therapist rather than being an authority figure or someone like that who looks down on the patient instead of doing that, empathizes. They use humanist ideas to create a positive environment that focuses on the present and positive emotions rather than bad and negative incidents from the past. 

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