Psychology series: Maslow's hierarchy of needs

6:15:00 PM

This article is first published in Vajb magazine in Serbian.

If you don't get why is someone going back for the nth time to the partner who cheated on them, how people gather the courage to leave everything and move to the other country or why someone needs to be in the center of attention, even though they look like a fool - psychology is where you'll find your answer.

American psychologist Abraham Maslow made a pyramid of human needs, hierarchically arranged in five levels. We, as humans, are not the beings who mastered the art of being completely satisfied - the moment we satisfy one level's needs, we become preoccupied with the higher one.

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1. Lowest level of the pyramid are the physiological needs: food, water, sex, warmth, and rest. You can't forget them or turn them off, it is what it is.

2. If you had a snack and peed, we're moving on the next level - safety needs. In order to function properly, we need to have solid ground to stand on. That means that it would be nice to not have bombs falling outside our window, to have food in our plates, to not fight for life or death and to not have any incurable illness (or illness in general).

3. Belongingness and love needs are what we need to satisfy next. We are not lone wolves and we function in the pack only. Our "pack" are the people we have close relationships with - family, friends, husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend and everything in between.

If you're not alone in this world, let's move to the next level!

4. Now, this is the level a lot of people didn't manage to reach - the obstacle is the need to be accepted. Esteem needs, so self-respect and prestige, as well as respecting others and being successful is the last deficiency needs. 

5. We arrived at the top of the pyramid. If you're still with me and everything's checked - congrats! Finally, we have the self-actualization need: achieving your full potential. that includes motivation, creativity, problem solving, spontaneity, tolerance etc.  

Very few things in this world are written in stone.
This hierarchy is not one of them.
It depends on the person or society. For some people, success is more important than love and others would rather be hungry that go against their principles.

Some criticize Maslow for not making a universal theory, but the one specific to American society and their value system; in countries such as China or Korea, the well-being of the collective is valued more than personal success, while in underdeveloped countries the need for a (secure) job is stronger than the need of self-realization.

 In the 70s, the hierarchy was changed and updated and 3 growth needs were added to our pyramid.

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 1. Cognitive needs are above the esteem needs: exploration, desire for knowledge, understanding, need for meaning and curiosity.

2. Above that we have aesthetic needs: appreciation and search for beauty and balance. (Where are my artists?)

3. In the end, at the very top of the pyramid (self-actualization is dethroned), there are transcendence needs that transcend beyond the individual: aesthetic experiences, religious faith, mystical experiences and certain experiences with nature, service to others, sexual experiences, the pursuit of science etc.

What level are you on? 

More from Psychology series: Why are we lonely?Big, bad FOMO and how to overcome it

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