In 1943, psychologist Maslow
proposed a developmental theory- Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (HoN). The model
comprises of physical needs as well as psychological needs and depicts a
concept of hierarchal motivations which people move through.
Maslow refers to the hierarchy of
needs (in order of the most basic) as physiological, safety, belongingness,
love, self-esteem, self-actualisation and self-transcendence (Maslow, 1943). It
is often presented as a pyramid of hierarchal levels with its five-tiers.
The first four stages of the
five-tiered model comprise of the deficiency needs. When deficiency needs are
not acquired they motivate people as they arise due to deprivation.
The amount of time that deficiency
needs are deprived- the stronger the motivation is to fulfil them. For example,
the longer that someone is deprived of fluids- they will get thirstier as time
goes on (Maslow, 1954). The top tier is comprised of a person’s growth needs.
At first it was decided by Maslow
that any lower deficit needs of the HoN must be satisfied first so that a person
is able to progress. This progression is towards a person’s higher-level needs,
Maslow claims these needs can not be satisfied first. However, this was later disputed,
and Maslow stated that even though it may have seemed that he proposed a theory
that made out the needs have to be fully satisfied before you can move on to your
next need- the fulfilment of the needs is not dependent on each other.
There are many limitations of this theory.
This theory was analysed by Wahba and Bridwell (1976) and they discovered that there
was not sufficient evidence. The fact that Maslow proposed a strict ordered theory
that is the same for everyone must be questioned as everyone’s needs are different.
The hierarchy has been claimed to be ethnocentric and like a western ideology (Hofstede,
1984). Individual, social, cultural and intellectual were not given justification
with the Hierarchy of Needs.
. Maslow formed these hierarchy of needs coming from an
individualistic perspective, as he was from a very individualistic nation,
being the united states. The requirements and motivations of individualistic
societies be inclined to be more self-interested than those of a collectivist
society- by concentrating on enhancement of the self, with self-actualization
as the apex of self-improvement.
was categorised alongside breathing, water and food- and this was criticised. It
was asserted that by including sex within this category creates an
individualistic perspective that has no acknowledgement of any emotional or
psychological impacts that it may have upon an individual (Hofstede ,1984).
However, sex for the sole use of reproduction could indisputable be placed in
the same tier as food, drink and breathing- as all three are vital for the
continuation of humanity. The placement of sex as a basic need looks to require
an additional consideration to feelings and emotions. As they are higher in the
hierarchy, criticisms by Kenrick Griskevicius, Neuberg and Schaller (2010) can
be reflected as they believe there is an intricacy to sex that Maslow does not
account for which comes from both physiological and psychological needs across
the hierarchical levels.
theory has been criticised as being overly simplistic as it does not take into
account for any societal needs at any particular time, such as was or a
recession (Cianci and Gambrel, 2003). So, as Maslow theorised that a starving
person would first find food (and by doing this put aside any other
considerations- such as social niceties) it is an obvious criticism that the
hierarchy does not consider acts of charity, heroism, bravery or selflessness.
A study by Tay and Diener (2011) portrayed
that the ranking of needs varies with age and is not the same for all age
groups, and in addition another criticism of the Hierarchy of Needs state the
sample as being unrepresentative. Maslow used the top 1% highest achievers of
numerous college populations and cited well known academics, including Einstein,
in his research. These facts effect the validity of the theory and makes it not
possible to generalise Maslow’s findings to a larger population (Mittleman,
The strengths of the theory primarily
come from its application to real-life settings and therefor its ecological
validity. The Hierarchy of Needs, regardless of being a psychological theory,
has been extensively utilised within the educational learning theory
(Mittleman, 1991). Its application to the education system stems from the
predominant aims of education- which is to help learning all while making the
process meaningful to an individual, by becoming useful and impacting upon
their lives. According to the Hierarchy of Needs ‘theory for the retention of
information’ and as well as for learning to be achieved, individuals should
feel motivated to meet their expected goals. Applying the theory as an outlook
to learning, all a student’s basic needs must be met before they can focus upon
their education. Thus, learning will develop as a secondary priority
(Mittleman, 1991). For an example in a classroom setting- if the room of a
learning environment was too hot or cold, the individuals in the classroom
would be attentive to rectifying this rather than on their learning
Although the Theory of Hierarchal
Needs has many implications (primarily since it lacks empirical support, is
outdated and simplistic) it has merit as being foundation for further research.
Its applications into real-life,
modern day situations highlight its usefulness as a theory- regardless of the
fact it was published in 1943. The publication date should not affect the value
of this theory as although it was published in a different era to modern day
time, the theory has the foundations to be expanded upon and extended to adjust
to the cultural, technological and social changes.