Maslow’s Motivation


Motivation Needs

Abraham Maslow
Abraham = Abraham Lincoln
Missile = Maslow

Physiology Needs

Fizzy Soda

Safety Needs

Safety = Safe

Social Needs

Eating with family and posting it to social media

Esteem Neds

Taking a selfie with a large "steaming" brain


Zombie protecting little boy from harm

Abraham Maslow (1908-1970)

Most people have aspirations, goals and needs; the successful business person upon achieving his success proceeds to improve himself by taking on a new challenge and continuing to grow as a person.  Yet an individual that is desolate, or even homeless has a different set of needs, such as shelter, warmth and food.  He cannot consider new challenges at this time until his current needs are met.  And when they are met, he will then have the innate drive to improve himself further. This is called the ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, and we all have them, regardless of our socioeconomic status, or marital status, age or race.  The only differentiation is the very nature of those needs, and whether they’ve been met or not. 

In the 1960’s a new approach in psychology was aimed towards humanism, a focus on making the most of human potential and personal growth.  Abraham Maslow was the key figure in this new advancement.  He strongly believed in existentialism and the emphasis on free will and responsibility of oneself in determining and designing of their lives

Born in Brooklyn New York, Maslow was the oldest of seven children, his Russian / Jewish parents had emigrated from Russia, and he was raised during a time of anti-Semitism which made advancements in his academic career challenging.   He did however relocate to Wisconsin where he met his soon to be protégé Harry Harlow, a famous scientist renowned for working on attachment behavior with Rhesus Monkeys.  Upon receiving his Doctorate in Psychology he also worked with E.L. Thorndike back in New York.  Thorndike was also a well renowned scientist in the field of behavioral psychology.  Maslow had been well mentored. 

Once settled as chair of the psychology department at Brandeis, a private American research university in Massachusetts, he began his focus on the radical theory of humanist psychology which he also referred to as ‘the third force’, is something that was very different from Freudian’s psychoanalysis and the pessimistic view of deep and disturbing unconscious desires.  Maslow’s theory was like a ray of light in the psychology field, focusing on the positive, rather than the negative.  He was the key figure in this psychological revolution into free will and determination.  Prior to this, he had been studying behavioral psychology, but decided that his theory of humanism was more pragmatic in the real world, providing a higher capability of solving real life problems.

Along with co-founder Carl Rogers and Rollo May, he became the crucial figure in the humanism movement.  Free will is the foundation in humanistic psychology.  The very basis of this theory is that everyone has the strong desire to realize their maximum potential, and to reach a level of self-actualization, something that Maslow spent most of his career implementing.  Humanistic psychology focuses on the individual as a whole, and the responsibility they have for the decisions they make and the accomplishments they achieve.  This self-introspection also known as phenomenology refers to the practice of the subjective view from the individual and their experiences themselves.  

He focused on researching mentally healthy individuals, as opposed to the common study of mentally ill patients.  He did this to show that mental well-being is for the healthy as well as the ill.  He believed the theory of self-actualization was something that continued on through a person’s entire lifetime, regardless of age.  One was never too old to strive to become the best person they could be.  And that is the basis of self-actualization. 

To reach self-actualization, he designed a pyramid; a legendary pyramid, which contained levels of self-growth and accomplishments. 

Photo courtesy of

In order for the next level to be accomplished in one’s life, they would need to have the most basic needs met such as their physiological needs. 

Maslow was curious about motivation, he strongly believed that it was intrinsic motivation within people, and outside rewards were irrelevant.  He believed that it was internal motivation that kept people striving to achieve the next level of accomplishments for internal gratification.  He designed this pyramid to demonstrate the levels needed to achieve before moving up to the next tier.

The Hierarchy of Needs – 5 Tiers

Tier 1  - Basic Needs

Physiological needs, at the lowest tier, are your most basic needs required for survival.  This would consist of water, food, shelter and rest.  Without these needs being met, survival would be at risk, and progressing on to the next tier would be near impossible.  Thus, reiterating Maslow’s illustration that each level needs to be met prior to the next. 

Tier 2 – Basic Needs

Safety needs, this basic second level consists of security, and safety factors being met, as without this, progression to the next level would also prove near impossible.  However, once an individual has met their most basic needs for survival, then their internal drive to further improve will kick in, which brings us to the next level.

Tier 3 – Psychological Needs

Attachment needs, a need for belonging and to be loved, to have friends and / or intimate relationships.  According to Maslow’s ‘Self-Actualization’ theory, once basic needs in life are met, one will progress to fulfil their psychological needs and then move forward, progressing up to the top tier of self-actualization.

Tier 4 – Psychological Needs

Esteem needs, a need for feelings of accomplishment and prestige.  This level illustrates a need to be fed ego morsels from time to time, and for the acknowledgement of a job well done.

Tier 5 – Self Fulfillment Needs

This level of self-actualization is only reached once all other levels have been met.  When one has achieved everything on the Hierarchy of Needs they are drawn to self-actualization. This level is the achievement of an individual’s full potential, and the realization of their full potential.  They have satisfied all their basic and psychological needs, and can then move to this elite level of peak experiences in their lives.

Maslow has quoted that only 1% can reach this level, as due to set-backs in life, as we all have, people will fluctuate between levels.  Perhaps they lose their job, and feel low levels of self-esteem, or perhaps they have run into financial difficulties or lost a loved one. 

Further changes to the Hierarchy of Needs have added cognitive, aesthetic (appreciating beauty) needs, as well as a new top tier called transcendence, and helping others to reach their full potential.

To further debunk this hierarchy, Maslow also separated the pyramid into two sets of needs, deficiency needs (d-needs) and being needs (b-needs).  The deficiency needs are the basic survival level such as food, water and security.  The being needs are the more elaborate and self-fulfilling psychological needs, cognitive needs and self-actualization needs.  And once the deficiency needs are met, they will have an innate drive to fulfill the b-needs.  If one is fortunate enough to reach the self-actualization level, then that is when they will seek peak experiences, and prosper toward their full potential as a human being.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is quite relevant in business today, and corporate executives have incorporated this theory into offering the tools for their employees to feel self-esteem and cognitively challenged and to be offered a voice in the business as well as opportunity for advancement.  By doing this, the company can run smoothly with content and engaged employees, striving to reach their full potential, and self-actualization.  Abraham Maslow’s theory has been a truly significant and radical movement in psychology, and one that is still relevant in today’s world. 






Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Script

1. Zoom: 0 – Motivation frame

Hot Spot: Abraham Maslow - Abraham Lincoln with a missile launcher.

Information Script: Abraham Maslow, represented in this CoursePic by Abraham Lincoln armed with a missile launcher, was one of the founders of humanistic psychology. This branch of psychology stresses individual potential and the significance of growth and self-actualization. Maslow’s hierarchy established the five basic levels of need that motivate us: physiological, safety, social esteem and self-actualization needs.

Story Script: Having ended the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln faced a new challenge with the aid of his missile launcher—a zombie apocalypse! Even Lincoln’s been turned, but instead of shooting the strange zombie in his bed, Lincoln opted to study the creature, searching for what motivates him.

2. Zoom: 1 – Physiology frame

Hot Spot: Physiology needs vital for survival -Zombie eating brains and drinking fizzy soda.

Information Script: Our most basic needs, according to Maslow, are our physiological needs. These necessities to sustain life—the need for water, air, food and sleep, for example—must be met before any other needs. The brains and soda are necessary to keep the zombie functioning, just like food and water are vital to the human condition.

Story Script: At the beginning of the attacks, the zombies thought only of their most basic physiological needs. They gorged themselves on brains and washed them down with soda.

3. Zoom: 2- Safety frame

Hot Spot: Safety needs - Zombie running from an exploding safe.

Information Script: Once our physiological needs are met, our safety needs must be addressed. These include the need for safety and security, just as the zombie flees the fire in the safe. While important for survival, these needs aren’t as demanding as our primal physiological needs.

Story Script: The military stepped in. Scare tactics like exploding safes and fires rattled the zombies at first, making them fear for their safety and security.

4. Zoom: 3 – Social frame

Hot Spot: Social Needs - Zombie eating dinner with family and posting to social media.

Information Script: Once our physiological needs are met, our safety needs must be addressed. These include the need for protection and security, just as the zombie flees the fire in the safe. While important for survival, these needs aren’t as demanding as our primal physiological needs.

Story Script: But they were beginning to evolve. Once they felt safe, these newly-socialized animals formed tribes. They ate dinner at the table just like any other American family, posting pictures of their brain and mushroom stew on Instagram.

5. Zoom: 4 – Esteem frame

Hot Spot: Esteem Needs -Zombie taking a selfie with a large, steaming brain

Information Script: Once physiological, safety and social needs are met, an individual’s needs for esteem take the forefront. These are needs that address self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition and accomplishment, represented here by the zombie taking a selfie with the large, steaming brain.

Story Script: All those likes and shares made the zombies feel great! Selfies with large, steaming brains went viral and the Twitterverse exploded with pro-zombie hashtags.

6. Zoom: 5 – Self-Actualization frame

Hot Spot: Self Actualization - Zombie protecting little boy from harm

Information Script: Finally, self-actualization can occur. Self-actualization occurs when the individual has realized and used his full potential, capacities and talents—a situation only possible when all other needs are fulfilled. This pinnacle level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is rarely fully met, with less than 1% of the population achieving total self-actualization by Maslow’s estimate. It is only then we can act selflessly, fulfilling our potential and caring less about the opinions of others, like this monk-like zombie fending off a little boy from attack.

Story Script: With their physiological, safety, social and esteem needs fully met, the zombie population was no longer a threat. Those who had self-actualized went vegan, established a monastery, and devoted their lives to selflessly protecting the innocent from unenlightened zombies. They now understood that just meeting their basic needs could help them achieve their full zombie potential and live in harmony with the human world.

This is the default dialog which is useful for displaying information. The dialog window can be moved, resized and closed with the 'x' icon.