3.2 General Psychology:Do you understand the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs?

3.2 Explain the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow (1908 to 1970) believed that human beings are born with weak instincts which become specific needs. If these needs are not satisfied then they will control the individuals’ personalities. These needs will therefore influence human motivation for example, if a person is hungry and needs food, he will be motivated to look for food. When a need is satisfied, it is no longer a need. For example if a person has just eaten a lot of food and is satisfied, he will not view hunger as a need at that time.


Maslow also believed that some needs are stronger than others that is, there are some needs which have to be fulfilled before other needs can be fulfilled. He believed that a person does not feel a second need until the first need has been fulfilled or the third need until the second need has been satisfied. Maslow argued that physiological needs that is the need for hunger, thirst, food, oxygen and sex were the strongest; safety needs are next, then the need for love, affection and belonging followed by need for self-esteem and finally the need for self-actualization. He therefore came up with what is known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which has these five classes of needs. This hierarchy of needs can be illustrated using a pyramid as shown in figure 1.

Image result for maslow's hierarchy of needs

Figure 1: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs


Physiological needs are also known as biological needs and include the needs for food, water, oxygen, sex, to eliminate (go to the toilet), and to maintain a constant body temperature. These needs are very important for human beings to survive. Maslow believed these needs must be met before other needs can be met for example, it would be very difficult for a child to concentrate in class when his bladder is full. He will be very uncomfortable until the teacher allows him to go to the toilet.


When all physiological needs are satisfied and are no longer controlling an individual’s thoughts and behaviour, safety needs become active. Safety needs are also known as security needs. An example of safety needs is the need to have a savings account in a bank. Physiological needs have to be satisfied before safety needs can be satisfied for example, street children might walk around late at night begging for food and not worry about their safety because they have not catered for their physiological needs. Another example is of a prostitute who has no money to buy food may agree to have sex without a condom and not worry about her safety as she might believe that her priority is getting food.


When the safety and physiological needs are taken care of, the next class of needs in the hierarchy appear. These are the needs for love, affection and belonging. Everyone wants to have people who love them and to feel they belong to a certain group of people. We therefore see people wanting to belong to a club, school or organisation.


The needs for self-esteem come next. These needs are also known as the needs for prestige. Maslow believed everyone has a need for prestige, fame and recognition as well as a need for competence and confidence. In brief, everyone wants to be respected by others and also to feel they can be able to succeed in something. If this need is not satisfied, an individual feels inferior and worthless.


When all the above needs have been met, then the needs for self-actualization are activated. Maslow says self-actualization needs are the person’s need to be and do that which that person was born for example to be a musician, writer or artist. Self-actualization is the need to become more fully and more truly what we have the potential to be.


3.3 Explain the application of some theories of motivation in the education sector

Application of Maslow’s theory to real life and educational situations

According to Maslow, human motivation is described by the hierarchy of needs. First, one requires food, water, safety, and the other basic needs of survival. When these are met, one then seeks meaningful relationships and prestige. Only when these are met does one try to self-actualize.


The satisfaction or non-satisfaction of needs leads to certain kinds of character formations or development of what Maslow calls a syndrome. Syndromes such as insecurity, self-esteem and self-actualization can be seen in practically everything that a person does, feels or thinks. When for example a person’s need for security has not been met, the person becomes worried and nervous but when satisfied, the individual becomes confident and feels secure. Another example is when an individual feels his esteem needs are satisfied and other people respect and recognize him, then he will feel and act in a self-confident manner. Satisfaction or non-satisfaction of needs will therefore influence individual’s personalities.


When working with young children we should realize that if the children’s needs have not been met, then it may be very difficult for them to participate in activities in school and also with other children. For example a child who is starving cannot be able to concentrate on what a teacher is teaching in the classroom. Children’s physiological needs should therefore be met. In addition when safety needs are not met, then it is useless to try and engage children in activities for example, if a child is afraid of a teacher and does not feel safe in the teachers’ presence, then this child will not be able to concentrate on what the teacher is saying. Safety in homes and schools is therefore important. Bullying of children and other forms of abuse directed at children should therefore be eliminated.


Children should be made to feel that they are loved and they belong for example that they belong in a school, classroom or home. Parents, teachers and guardians should therefore try to love all children equally and avoid treating some children badly. Group work among children should also be encouraged so that children get to interact with one another and feel that they are part of a group that is working together to achieve a certain goal.


In order to promote a feeling of esteem in children, parents, guardians and teachers should recognise and praise children who do well. In a school for example, during the school assembly teachers can give a present to a child who has done well. The child will feel happy and prestigious that all his peers saw him getting the reward. Young children who do well should also be praised as this helps them realize that their efforts are recognised.


Children can also be made to realize that is not impossible to self-actualize. Parents, teachers and guardians should tell children about people who have self-actualized such as Mother Teresa and music composers such as Mozart. Children should therefore be told that they also have the potential to be the best in anything they do. They should therefore inspire and give hope to children and encourage the children to engage in socially acceptable and useful tasks.


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