Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory in psychology that Abraham Maslow proposed in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation. His theory contended that as humans meet basic needs, they seek to satisfy successively higher needs that occupy a set hierarchy.
Maslow studied the luminaries of his day; Albert Einstein, Jane Addams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Frederick Douglass, he also studied one percent of the healthiest college student population. While Maslow’s theory was regarded as an improvement over previous theories of personality and motivation, it was not perfect. Wabha and Bridwell (1976) found little evidence for the ranking of needs that Maslow described, or even for the existence of a definite hierarchy at all. Neef has argued that fundamental human needs are non-hierarchical, and universal and in nature. Poverty he argues is the result of any one of these needs being frustrated, denied or unfulfilled, regardless of what position it occupies on Maslow’s Hierarchy.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the four lower levels are grouped together as deficiency needs associated with physiological needs, while the top level is termed growth needs associated with psychological needs. While deficiency needs must be met, growth needs are the need for personal growth. The basic concept is that the higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus once all the needs that are lower down in the pyramid are mainly or entirely satisfied. Once an individual has moved past a level, those needs will no longer be prioritised. However, if a lower set of needs is continually unmet for an extended period of time, the individual will temporarily re-prioritise those needs – dropping down to that level until those lower needs are reasonably satisfied again. Innate growth forces constantly create upward movement in the hierarchy unless basic needs remain unmet indefinitely.