Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (8 levels) Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (8 levels)

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (MHoN) and the Biopsychosocial model in Psychology (BPS)16 min read

Civil-Rights Economy Globalization Healthcare Reform Life Politics Relationships Religion Resource Based Economy Science UNDHR
Print Friendly, PDF & Email


In several of my more technical posts that talk about politics, religion, economics, etc… I talk about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (MHoN) and about Biopsychosocial (BPS) issues, so I would like to take a moment to create a post on this to collect thoughts, images, and links on these important topics so I can refer people to it, and so they can learn about this which can greatly increase people’s understanding of many parts of our human experience as well as how our world works. And, honestly, I though I already had a post on this, soooo…

I. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

A. The Technical Info

1. Abraham Maslow, Its Creator

Abraham Maslow

Here is a quote from the Wikipedia article on Abraham Maslow, the man who created Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

“Abraham Harold Maslow (/ˈmæzloÊŠ/; April 1, 1908 – June 8, 1970) was an American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization. Maslow was a psychology professor at Alliant International University, Brandeis University, Brooklyn College, New School for Social Research, and Columbia University. He stressed the importance of focusing on the positive qualities in people, as opposed to treating them as a “bag of symptoms.” A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Maslow as the tenth most cited psychologist of the 20th century.”

2. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

a. What is it?

So, what exactly is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Here is a quote from the Wikipedia article on MHoN:

“Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review. Maslow subsequently extended the idea to include his observations of humans’ innate curiosity. His theories parallel many other theories of human developmental psychology, some of which focus on describing the stages of growth in humans. He then decided to create a classification system which reflected the universal needs of society as its base and then proceeding to more acquired emotions. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is used to study how humans partake in behavioral motivation intrinsically. Maslow used the terms “physiological,” “safety,” “belonging and love,” or “social needs” “esteem,” and “self-actualization” to describe the pattern through which human motivations generally move. This means that in order for motivation to occur at the next level, each level must be satisfied within the individual themselves. Furthermore, this theory is a key foundation in understanding how drive and motivation are correlated when discussing human behavior. Each of these individual levels contains a certain amount of internal sensation that must be met in order for an individual to complete their hierarchy. The goal of Maslow’s Theory is to attain the fifth level or stage: self-actualization.

Maslow’s theory was fully expressed in his 1954 book Motivation and Personality. The hierarchy remains a very popular framework in sociology research, management training and secondary and higher psychology instruction. Maslow’s classification hierarchy has been revised over time. The original hierarchy states that a lower level must be completely satisfied and fulfilled before moving onto a higher pursuit. However, today scholars prefer to think of these levels as continuously overlapping each other. This means that the lower levels may take precedent back over the other levels at any point in time.”

Here is a quick video to get you started in leaning about MHoN:

What is Maslow’s Pyramid?
What is the Hierarchy of Needs?
b. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (5 Levels)

His original hierarchy was 5 levels while prior to his death, he was working on adding a 6th level to it from his further research. Here are the 5 levels with the lowest numbers corresponding with the lowest levels of the pyramid and broken down also into what he identified as Deficiency Needs and Growth Needs:

  1. Deficiency Needs
    1. Physiological (air, water, food, homeostasis, sex)
    2. Safety (shelter, clothes, routine, familiarity)
    3. Belonging and love (affection; connection to family, friends, and colleagues)
    4. Esteem (self-respect and respect from others, high evaluation of oneself, achievement, reputation/prestige)
  2. Growth Needs
    1. Self-actualization (self-growth, actualizing one’s innate potential)

Here is a small gallery of graphics of this wonderful pyramid:

c. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (8 Levels)

Over time psychologists have expanded and updated his famous pyramid to with 3 more levels including the one that he was working on adding on prior to his death. Here are the updated 8 levels with the lowest numbers corresponding with the lowest levels of the pyramid:

  1. Deficiency Needs
    1. Physiological Needs
    2. Safety Needs
    3. Love and Belonging
    4. Esteem
  2. Growth
    1. Cognitive
    2. Aesthetic
    3. Self Actualization
    4. Transcendence
d. ERG Theory

Clayton Alderfer has created a classification system within these needs called the ERG Theory which groups the 8 needs likes this::

  1. Existence
    1. Physiological Needs
    2. Safety Needs
  2. Relatedness
    1. Love and Belonging
    2. Esteem
  3. Growth
    1. Esteem
    2. Cognitive
    3. Aesthetic
    4. Self Actualization
    5. Transcendence
e. Not Really a Pyramid or Hierarchy

First, let me say that, in reality, even Maslow himself recognized that the pyramid form was not necessarily a completely accurate representation of his theory because, as a example, we cannot honestly say that: someone that does not have their esteem needs met will not ever be able to fulfill any of their aesthetic or other higher order needs. The applicability of the hierarchy is different from person to person and culture to culture.

Academics today know this too, and some have even suggested that perhaps a Venn Diagram would be a better representation of these needs because they are interrelated and interdependent, but do not act as iron-bound gateways to the next level, although in extreme situations such as abject, poverty, starvation, war, etc they can be.

B. Why is MHoN Sooo Important or Useful?

1. Overview

So, above I have inundated you with just a factual download on who created Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and what it is, but I have not gone into why I find this thing so important and useful in so may different areas of thinking and research. I will try to elucidate that in this section as well as I can.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a powerful and very useful concept that can help us understand many aspects of the human experience from poverty, religion, economics, crime, social issues, and so very much more.

Ultimately, MHoN says two basic ideas:

  1. If certain category of needs are not met to the individual’s satisfaction then a person will act in a way as to fulfill that need as best they can within their ability.
  2. If lower order needs, their Deficiency or survival needs, are not met then the higher order needs, Growth needs, are much, much more difficult to fulfill or pursue.

Now, there is significant logic to this. If your basic necessities are not being met then being productive or happy can be very difficult, and could have a person considering options which one might consider uproductive such as criminal acts out of desperation. Also, in many ways we may consider MHoN as the precursor or progenitor to the Biopsychosocial model in psychology.

2. Quick Example Chain – Poverty

Let us look at a quick chain of factors to give you a start at how powerful this pyramid is when you start applying this:

a. Poverty

If a person is starving, homeless, or are being abused at home (Physiological and Safety blocked) then everything else in life becomes much harder to do because of the effects of those situations – stress, fear, shame, hunger, depression, – lacking energy which can result in social isolation (Belonging and Love limited) and therefore harder to do anything else well.

b. Religion

In order to have some sort of an emotional or psychological coping mechanism in order to deal with the horror and desperation of their situation and the isolation they feel they may turn to religion (Belonging).

c. Crime

They may even eventually turn to crime because their basic Deficiency Needs are not met and do not see any way to get these needs met (food, shelter, health care, etc) by playing by the rules; and they need to have those needs met.

3. Quick Example – Work Fulfillment

A person who has family, friends, a place to live and food, but
works at crappy, monotonous, and backbreaking job and is not doing what they want to do (Esteem) which can cause depression and anger, and can find it hard to advance oneself (Growth Needs).

C. Learn More…

1. Videos

2. General

3. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 2.0

II. Biopsychosocial (BPS) Model


The concept of lower order needs interfering or preventing higher order needs brings us to the idea of biopsychosocial effects. The Biopsychosocial model in psychology was developed in the 1977 by George L Engel. The word is an amalgam of biological, psychological and social which points to how a specific situation or condition that a person faces will affect their lives in one way or another on all of those levels. Now, in the diagrams below, you will see that these are all related through Venn diagrams:

Here is a quick video to help explain the biopsychosocial model:
*video was removed from YouTube*

A. Quick Examples

As an example of looking at biospychosocial effects consider these three cases that start from 3 different sources and see the interplay and interdependence between the three spheres:

1. Biological Source

A child whose family is poor and does not have enough food to eat each day:

  • Biological: will be hungry which will effect their body’s systems – lack of energy, tiredness
  • Psychological: it will be hard to concentrate, think, or learn; they maybe shy, depressed, and ashamed of their economic situation and may find it hard to ask for help because of it, which will have further effects
  • Social: may avoid contact with other people and may face ridicule and teasing because of their situation; these potentials may make it hard for them to make friends which increases social isolation which will have further psychological effects

2. Psychological Source

A person with an anxiety disorder :

  • Psychological: may have anxiety, stress, and depression
  • Biological: which creates adverse biological symptoms such as stomach ulcers and loss in appetite
  • Social: which can make one not wanting to be social, cranky, and feel further isolated which can further exacerbate the issue

3. Social Source

A person is facing harassment at work:

  • Social: A person is receiving verbal and emotional harassment at work
  • Psychological: which can create anxiety, stress, depression, and feelings of social isolation
  • Biological: which creates adverse biological symptoms such as stomach ulcers and loss in appetite

B. Learn More 


In this document I tried to give you an introduction to the world of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and to Biopsychosocial effects and how such models may help to inform the way we look at the world. I know, for me, when I found out about these models they really transformed the way that I looked at the world, its issues, and potential solutions. Hopefully, after you have considered this and done some research that these concepts may help you too.

Liked it? Take a second to support James O'Neill on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!
James O'Neill

2 thoughts on “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (MHoN) and the Biopsychosocial model in Psychology (BPS)

  1. Pingback: Defund the Police?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.