Time has witnessed the development of various psychological approaches to study individuals. Some of them include Skinner’s behaviorism and Freud’s psychodynamic theories. Yet, these theories had certain limitations. Thus, the humanistic approach arose in response to the limitations of these theories. The aim was to look at the person and emphasize the unique individual characteristics. Abraham Maslow along with Rogers worked towards the humanistic approach. Maslow further developed the “Hierarchy of Needs”.
WHAT IS THE HIERARCHY OF NEEDS?
Abraham Maslow is perhaps most well-known for his theory on the hierarchy of needs. It is a pyramid-like structure that states the needs of every individual. This hierarchy comprises five levels in total. The most basic and biological needs are at the bottom. On the other hand, with the fulfillment of each need, there is an elevation to the next in this hierarchy. The first four levels are also known as deficiency needs. The top-most level is that of self-actualization. This is the most advanced need of all. Regarded as the growing need.
HUNGER, THIRST AND SEX-THE PHYSIOLOGICAL NEEDS:
The most basic needs of this pyramid are hunger, thirst, and sex. The first two being a necessity of survival. One can say the prime instinct of humans is that of survival. Hence, physiological needs focus on food, water, shelter, sleep, and sex. Imagine this scenario. An individual is trapped on an island. The first likely thing that s/he will do is look for food and clean water. Then the person will probably go on in search of shelter. This need emphasizes the survival necessities. According to Maslow, sex was also a physiological need at the bottom of this hierarchy. This might be it is biological. It also serves the purpose of procreation.
NEED FOR SAFETY:
After the physiological needs are met and fulfilled, there is an elevation to the next level. This includes the safety needs i.e. the need for security. Once, individuals are satisfied with their physiological needs they want to feel more secure. The desire to have predictability and control over their lives. For instance- Most individuals would like to have financial security. This makes them feel more secure and in control of their lives. Law and order are other aspects of this need. It provides a certain sense of security too because it keeps situations under control.
NEED FOR LOVE AND BELONGINGNESS:
One of the most important aspects of humans is the need to be needed. This involves the need to be loved and to have a certain sense of belongingness. It adds meaning to the lives of individuals. For example- friendships, romantic relationships, being a part of a family, etc. All this provides a sense of trust, acceptance and fulfills one’s need for intimacy. These are related to the social aspect of people’s lives. Therefore, individuals want to give affection and to receive the same as well.
NEED FOR ESTEEM:
At the fourth level of this hierarchy, there is the need for esteem. This can further be categorized into self-esteem and the desire for respect from others along with reputation. The first category refers to the urge of individuals to have independence, dignity as well as a sense of achievement. While the second refers to the way society or other people perceive them. It includes the respect one receives from others and the reputation one has. For instance, an individual who has great academic excellence and good social relationships. S/he is reputed in her/his area of work. This person is likely to have a high and fulfilled esteem.
NEED FOR SELF-ACTUALIZATION:
This is the ultimate and final stage in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The highest level in the hierarchy refers to the complete realization of an individual’s potential. The also includes self-fulfillment, to reach and have potential experiences. According to Maslow, at this level, an individual can become and accomplish everything that one possibly can. People who can reach this level have a very keen and specific focus. For instance- someone would want to be very successful in the career aspect. Or someone who wants to be the ideal partner. All these goals are specific. Therefore, associated with self-actualization.
According to Maslow, the fulfillment of one need leads to the next level. If the needs are unfulfilled at any level then the individual does not elevate to the next level. For instance, if the biological need for hunger and thirst are not met then the person will not focus on fulfilling the safety need. Due to this, the theory also had several criticisms. Some of which stated that the needs might vary depending on the culture and context of the individual. Such as, for some individuals the esteem needs might be more important than the need for affection.
There is another aspect of the theory. That is to say, that very few people are able to achieve self-actualization. This is because it involves a very strong sense of purpose and self-awareness. Also, the fulfillment of the first four levels is crucial to reach the ultimate level of self-actualization. Hence, it can be very difficult and challenging. For many, it is a challenge in itself to fulfill the first four levels. As a result, self-actualization remains to be a farther goal.
PRESENT DAY RELEVANCE OF THE THEORY:
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is still widely popular and well-known amongst psychologists. Although the psychologist finds little evidence to support this theory. In the past few years, a team of psychologists began to work further on this theory. Their objective was to modernize it. Thus, there have been more studies, and while the level at the bottom is still similar to the initial theory. Some changes are taking place at the higher level of this hierarchy. Thus, the psychologists are aiming to transform the theory according to present-day context.
Thus, Abraham Maslow’s theory is famous. Despite the criticisms and changes being made, it still holds relevance even today. People regard this theory to be useful for personal development and even growth in professional spheres. Some believe that it offers ways for improving oneself. Although there is little empirical support for the theory, individuals still prefer to use it in their context and experiences.