Is Maslow's hierarchy of needs still relevant? Research and Myths (2023)

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Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, popularly known as the pyramid, explains how certain needs should be met before others. In the more than 70 years since the renowned psychologist unveiled his theory, the needs and benefits of the system have changed dramatically. It is worth reviewing decades later what Maslow's hierarchy of needs really is and whether it still matters.


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What is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?

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Maslow's Hierarchy of NeedsIt is a psychological theory that describes what people consider needs. However, the theory is less about the needs themselves and more about what we do to satisfy them and why. "Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory", licensed clinical psychologistAimee Daramus, Psy.D.says mbg. "We are motivated, according to Maslow, to satisfy each of the basic needs, listed in order of hierarchy, which means that before thinking about things [at the top of the pyramid] like love, respect or self-actualization, we must must have Satisfy lower-level needs, such as immediate and long-term security.

Originally, Maslow presented the hierarchy of needs divided into five categories according to what he considered the most urgent. Subsequently, his theory was popularly described in the form of a pyramid. These are categories arranged from "lowest level" to "highest" requirements.

Is Maslow's hierarchy of needs still relevant? Research and Myths (5)

diagram according toMBG Creative


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Order of needs according to Maslow's hierarchy.


psychological needs

Physiological needs, which include shelter, food, water, and health, are the most basic human needs for Maslow. He theorized that without these needs being met, no other could exist.


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(Video) Do Psychologists Still Use Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?

security needs

Once you've mastered the basics of survival, Safety-Based Needs introduces the concepts of stability, security, and freedom from fear. This means that you eat your food without worrying about someone stealing it, for example, and you sleep without fear of eating anything.Ofin your dream


love and belonging needs

Maslow believed that once a person's physiological and safety needs were met, the lack of love and affection would become apparent. This applies to romantic relationships, but also to the need to belong and be accepted by friends, colleagues, and the community.


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needs recognition

As soon as others accept you, you also start to appreciate yourself.self esteem needsThis includes clear accomplishments, the ability to be independent, and to have status.


self-actualization needs

At the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needsautomatic update. Maslow best describes this last "higher" pillar: "A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write if he is ultimately to be happy." What a person can be, must satisfy the need for him, we can call it self-realization.


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The pyramid of needs expanded.

Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D., humanistic psychologist and author ofTranscend: The New Science of Self-Actualization, tells mbg that towards the end of Maslow's life he actually adjusted the order completely. "He didn't put self-actualization at the top of his hierarchy of needs," he says. "Maslow reformed, so to speak, and brought transcendence to the fore."

In Maslow's booksmotivation and personality miReligions, values ​​and peak experiences, expanded the levels of human needs. He first introduced the ideas of cognitive needs and aesthetic needs as essential in the hierarchy of needs, and finally brought to the fore the concept of transcendent needs.

cognitive needs

This addition expresses the human need to fully understand and explore facts and issues. Instead of just seeing something, people want to go deeper and understand.

aesthetic needs

Maslow explained this as "drives toward beauty, symmetry, and possibly toward simplicity, achievement, and order." The idea is that people not only want to live, but also want to do so surrounded by beauty. that's why we love oneclean and well organized house, For example.

(Video) What is Maslow’s Pyramid? What is the Hierarchy of Needs?

needs of transcendence

Possibly the most altruistic of the needs proposed by Maslow, transcendence relates to helping others find fulfillment in others.from themLive, even if it means transcending your own needs.

What does the research say?

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs has not been validated by research. Although human beings have certain undeniable needs, such as food and water to survive, it is impossible to describe the same needs for all people in the world. "There is no evidence-based agreement on what a person's basic needs are, much less to believe that there is a universal order in which they must be met," says Daramus. "Research in personality and social psychology suggests that there are many individual and cultural differences in the way people prioritize and meet their own needs."

viktor sander, a social skills consultant, explains: “There are too many unanswered questions to create a rigorous scientific test. How do you know when a need is fully satisfied? How can you determine what needs to measure at a given level? of the plain?"

A studywhich ran from 2005 to 2010 with 60,865 participants in 123 countries, tried to show just that. Participants answered a series of questions related to needs aligned with Maslow's hierarchy. The results indicated that, as noted above, there are certain needs that are universal, but it was not necessary to satisfy these basic needs in order to satisfy those that Maslow considered less critical.

The theory also assumes that people act according to their needs. "Today we know that humans do not act only according to our needs," explains Sander. “We do a lot of things that are completely contrary to our needs. How is Maslow's theory of needs used to explain a monk or nun burning to death in protest?" This is just the beginning of the criticism Maslow's hierarchy has faced.

Criticism of Maslow's Hierarchy.


Needs are not always hierarchical.

As mentioned above, the presentation of Maslow's hierarchy is often based on the idea that in order for a person to have one need satisfied, all needs at the lower level must first be satisfied. Well, anyone who has ever felt lust or love can testify that this is not true. "Hungry or homeless people can still be strongly motivated by a need for respect or love," says Daramus. "There ishigh rates of homelessness and food insecurity among college students, but they continue to go to class and do their best. Parents may choose to starve themselves when they need to feed their children and put love before their own physiological well-being."

Daramus begs us to think about it, also from a work perspective. The act of taking a job you love instead of one that pays more but is less attractive also challenges this hierarchical nature. If you take emotions out of the equation, it's clear that the lowest needs are met first, but since humans don't have emotions, reality doesn't work that way.


The hierarchical structure has elitist and classicist implications.

The most common criticism of the theory is that it does not apply to everyone. "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is based primarily on Maslow's own observations of successful Western white men," says Sander. "Because of the theory's Western ethnocentric biases, I think it may be harmful to propagate this theory without talking about its weaknesses. This can lead to a misinterpretation of human and cultural complexities."

For example, Maslow's hierarchy implies that people who lack stable access to food and shelter (ie, poor people) are not as concerned with belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization. This implies that creative expression, self-fulfillment, and self-improvement are things that only the wealthy desire and dream of. Of course that is not true.


Abraham Maslow did not present his theory of motivation as a pyramid.

It turns out that the pyramid structure itself is a big mistake about the hierarchy. “He never drew a triangle. He never drew a pyramid to represent it," says Kaufman. "A lot of people present it as a step-by-step and also that there's a strict order of needs. I think Maslow was much more relaxed about it." So even though the pyramid is always associated with his work, Maslow himself never used it.

Some researchers followedThe origin of the psychologist Charles McDermid. He used the pyramid in a 1960s paper to describe the theory, and it took off from there.

Is Maslow's hierarchy of needs still relevant?

While there are clear criticisms of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, there are also some advantages. "It really takes into account our deepest weaknesses and challenges, as well as our greatest strengths," says Kaufman. "I really like how the Hierarchy of Needs recognizes that people are full of various needs, some more pressing than others, but we are capable of using our full potential."

If we look at it as a guide for ourvarious needsRather than a specific order in which they must be satisfied, Maslow's hierarchy of needs may still be relevant in today's society. Each person has different priorities and motives for pursuing certain needs, possibly at the expense of others. This flexibility is part of our individuality and determines how each of us progresses in life, figuring out our needs and all.

(Video) Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Explained
(Video) Why Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs Matters


Is Maslow's theory still relevant today? ›

Maslow's hierarchy of needs continues to be widely popular and mostly well-accepted, but the available evidence does not necessarily support Maslow's theory.

What is the relevance of Maslow's hierarchy of needs? ›

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a go-to model that explains the psychology of human motivation. It will help you spend less time guessing what makes your people tick so that you can spend more time doing the things that motivate them.

Why is Maslow's hierarchy of needs controversial? ›

Perhaps the most significant criticism of Maslow's hierarchy concerns his unscientific approach, use of unreliable samples, and the specific research methods he used to draw conclusions: namely, personal observation and biographical analysis.

What is the problem with Maslow's theory? ›

The major problem with Maslow's hierarchy-of-needs theory is that it cannot be tested empirically – there is no way to measure precisely how satisfied one level of need must be before the next higher need becomes operative.

Is Maslow's theory reliable? ›

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is not validated by research. While human beings do have certain unarguable needs like food and water to survive, it has proved impossible to detail the same needs for all people across the world.


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