The physiological needs


For the most part, physiological needs are obvious - they are the literal requirements for human survival. If these requirements are not met (with the exception of clothing and shelter), the human body simply cannot continue to function.

Physiological needs include:

  • Breathing
  • Food
  • Sexual activity
  • Homeostasis

Air, water, and food are metabolic requirements for survival in all animals, including humans. The intensity of the human sexual instinct is shaped more by sexual competition than maintaining a birth rate adequate to survival of the species. The theme of genetic heritage over survival is treated at length in The Selfish Gene.

The urge to have sex is so powerful that it can drain psychic energy away from other necessary goals. Therefore every culture has to invest great efforts in rechanneling and restraining it, and many complex social institutions exist only in order to regulate this urge. The saying that "love makes the world go round" is a polite reference to the fact that most of our deeds are impelled, either directly or indirectly, by sexual needs. - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Safety needs
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With their physical needs relatively satisfied, the individual's safety needs take precedence and dominate behavior. These needs have to do with people's yearning for a predictable, orderly world in which injustice and inconsistency are under control, the familiar frequent and the unfamiliar rare. In the world of work, these safety needs manifest themselves in such things as a preference for job security, grievance procedures for protecting the individual from unilateral authority, savings accounts, insurance policies, and the like.

For most of human history many individuals have found their safety needs unmet, but As of 2009[update] "First World" societies provide most with their satisfaction, although the poor - both those who are poor as a class and those who are temporarily poor (university students would be an example) - must often still address these needs.

Safety and Security needs include:

  • Personal security
  • Financial security
  • Health and well-being
  • Safety net against accidents/illness and their adverse impacts
Social needs

After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third layer of human needs is social. This psychological aspect of Maslow's hierarchy involves emotionally-based relationships in general, such as:

  • Friendship
  • Intimacy
  • Having a supportive and communicative family

Humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance, whether it comes from a large social group, such as clubs, office culture, religious groups, professional organizations, sports teams, gangs ("Safety in numbers"), or small social connections (family members, intimate partners, mentors, close colleagues, confidants). They need to love and be loved (sexually and non-sexually) by others. In the absence of these elements, many people become susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety, and clinical depression. This need for belonging can often overcome the physiological and security needs, depending on the strength of the peer pressure; an anorexic, for example, may ignore the need to eat and the security of health for a feeling of control and belonging.


All humans have a need to be respected and to have self-esteem and self-respect. Also known as the belonging need, esteem presents the normal human desire to be accepted and valued by others. People need to engage themselves to gain recognition and have an activity or activities that give the person a sense of contribution, to feel accepted and self-valued, be it in a profession or hobby. Imbalances at this level can result in low self-esteem or an inferiority complex. People with low self-esteem need respect from others. They may seek fame or glory, which again depends on others. Note, however, that many people with low self-esteem will not be able to improve their view of themselves simply by receiving fame, respect, and glory externally, but must first accept themselves internally. Psychological imbalances such as depression can also prevent one from obtaining self-esteem on both levels.

Most people have a need for a stable self-respect and self-esteem. Maslow noted two versions of esteem needs, a lower one and a higher one. The lower one is the need for the respect of others, the need for status, recognition, fame, prestige, and attention. The higher one is the need for self-respect, the need for strength, competence, mastery, self-confidence, independence and freedom. The latter one ranks higher because it rests more on inner competence won through experience. Deprivation of these needs can lead to an inferiority complex, weakness and helplessness.

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Maslow stresses the dangers associated with self-esteem based on fame and outer recognition instead of inner competence. He sees healthy self-respect as based on earned respect.


"What a man can be, he must be". This forms the basis of the perceived need for self-actualization. This level of need pertains to what a person's full potential is and realizing that potential. Maslow describes this desire as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.. This is a broad definition of the need for self-actualization, but when applied to individuals the need is specific. For example one individual may have the strong desire to become an ideal parent, in another it may be expressed athletically, and in another it may be expressed in painting, pictures, or inventions. As mentioned before, in order to reach a clear understanding of this level of need one must first not only achieve the previous needs, physiological, safety, love, and esteem, but master these needs. Below are Maslow's descriptions of a self-actualized person's different needs and personality traits.


A self-actualized person "can accept their own human nature in the stoic style, with all its shortcomings, with all its discrepancies from the ideal image without feeling real concern". This means that a self-actualized person can clearly see human nature in all its good and evil without the distortion from false social norms. Maslow uses basic animal acceptance to prove this point. He states that self-actualized people tend to be good and lusty animals, hearty in their appetites and enjoying them mightily without regret or shame. This involves a basic acceptance of nature and the way things are rather than trying to change things (for example: disgust with body functions or having a food aversion) to suit one's neuroses. This doesn't mean these people lack morals, guilt, shame, or anxiety; it means that they have the ability to remove all unnecessary forms of these processes.

An interpretation of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, represented as a pyramid with the more basic needs at the bottom.[1]