Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Its Expansions

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is among the most utilized and researched psychological theories in the world. Its pyramid structure is applied in various spheres, including business, healthcare, education, and others. Maslow first proposed the hierarchy in 1943, and the original version includes five different needs that all people experience during their lives (McLeod, 2018). These include such needs as “physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization” (McLeod, 2018, para. 2).

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Later, the pyramid was expanded by Maslow to include three new levels – cognitive and aesthetic needs and the need for transcendence. However, most researchers still consider the original pyramid for their studies as the basis of people’s lives. It should be noted that the hierarchy remains a subject to criticism for many scholars, although it is employed in a wide variety of settings. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs presents a combination of people’s desires and helps one to understand which factors of living are more important than others to people.

Original Hierarchy

The first version of the pyramid was created by Maslow in 1943, and Figure 1 depicts the model that is most widely used in current research. It is applied as one of the holistic methods in such spheres as teaching and marketing. For instance, people’s need for esteem (the fourth step) is presented through the lens of peer and teacher support of students. Maslow indicated that people could not pursue goals related to personal growth without feeling respected and recognized for their efforts (McLeod, 2018). It should be stated that a person can feel multiple needs at the same time, but all humans are thought to fulfill the most basic needs before moving towards others on most occasions.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
Figure 1. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (McLeod, 2018).

Physiological Needs

The first level of the hierarchy is represented by physiological needs. These are the most basic requirements for survival that people may think about above all else. They include the need for water, food, clothing, shelter, sleep, and others (McLeod, 2018). As one may observe, all mentioned above needs are a vital part of every human’s well-being – one cannot survive without food and drink, for example. Some of these requirements, such as sex, warmth, clothing, and shelter, are also considered by Maslow as inherent to people’s living. According to the scholar, while these needs are not met, a person cannot begin to think about other concerns (McLeod, 2018). Therefore, they lie at the basis of the pyramid and constitute its most substantial part.

Safety Needs

Above the physiological demands, safety needs are located in the pyramid. These include different types of protection – such as safety from nature’s elements, animals, and other people. For example, if a person is scared for their life due to hurricanes or wild animals, they do not need safety fulfilled. Another example is the lack of protection under the law – racism and homophobia may increase minorities’ sense of safety needs being overlooked.

Belongingness and Love Needs

The third step in the pyramid is the need for love and belongingness. In this case, Maslow believed that a person required acceptance and positive social interactions to move towards higher goals (McLeod, 2018). For example, friendships, romantic relationships, family support, and other types of strong and intimate bonds are considered here. The theory suggests that an individual wants to be a part of a particular group to feel comfort and motivation to pursue other needs.

Esteem Needs

The fourth level of the hierarchy is separated further into two needs – self-esteem and respect from others. Maslow argued that these two needs are strongly interconnected since people’s desire to have a positive reputation often influenced their perception of themselves (McLeod, 2018). Thus, these needs are vital for humans as well, especially if they exist in a society. Esteem for oneself implies that an individual experiences such feelings as independence, dignity, and respect towards oneself. Esteem from others comes in the form of respect and can be visualized through one’s status.

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The last need in the original pyramid is self-actualization. After fulfilling all previous requirements, a person may start thinking about the potential and personal growth. In this case, one’s professional and individual goals come into view as people seek fulfillment through interests, experiences, and other desires. For instance, if a person feels the desire to become the best doctor or the best violin player, they are experiencing the need for self-actualization. This aim can also be directed at oneself rather than at others. Some people may not need competition to fulfill this goal, focusing on their personal feelings of growth instead.

Hierarchy Expansions

Cognitive and Aesthetic Needs

In 1970, Maslow added additional steps to the original pyramid, believing that these needs should have their category to depict people’s requirements adequately. Two of these steps are cognitive and aesthetic needs, which are placed between the need for esteem and self-actualization. Cognitive needs include various activities related to people’s inherent curiosity and love of knowledge. Through education, exploration, analysis, and prediction, people fulfill this need. The next step, aesthetic needs, represents people’s desire to appreciate beauty. Here, one may provide such examples as creation and appraisal of art.

Transcendence Needs

Maslow also added a step above self-actualization, implying that personal growth may not be the ultimate desire of humans. Transcendence lies in motivation to pursue needs that are not related to one’s personal, individual existence. For example, a person may feel the urge to provide service to others, volunteer, explore faith and scientific progress, or protect and experience nature. It should be noted that these and previous needs may be encountered by a person in a different order and are usually felt simultaneously, although they are often pursued separately.

Application and Critique

Maslow’s hierarchy offers a framework that can be applied to virtually any sphere of people’s existence. For example, Jackson et al. (2014) consider the original pyramid in regards to psychology and patients’ needs in the Intensive Care Unit. They find that the hierarchy can assist medical professionals in designing a system of care that addresses not only the survival aspect of patients’ treatment but also people’s need to manage their spirit and mind. However, the proposed model also faces critique from researchers who address its focus on an individual rather than community and higher goals.

It should be remarked that most of these studies review the original pyramid, thus making their arguments ineffective against the updated version. Bouzenita and Boulanouar (2016) provide a critique of the lack of spiritual needs in the original pyramid. The scholars argue that this model enforces a capitalistic view of people, describing their needs to apply them to the marketing process. They provide a religious view of Islam which offers different needs to people, noting that Maslow’s hierarchy focuses on physical items and consumption. The authors note that the updated version of the pyramid is discarded by most users, although it presents an updated view of life.

Harrigan and Commons (2015) offer to replace the existing hierarchy with a model that is based on value. The proposed system is much more complicated than the original pyramid, and it considers the reinforcement of behaviors as the foundation of people’s actions. Thus, each of Maslow’s stages is separated into phases of understanding that people exhibit about the aim of their actions.

Another view offers some insights into how people’s individual needs affect others. For instance, Datta (2013) offers an ecological view of Maslow’s pyramid and argues that persons may negatively or positively contribute to society’s existence by pursuing their goals. The author discusses green energy, global warming, financial crises, mortgage, and other aspects of human life, noting that transcendence needs often inspire people to protect their surroundings. Thus, one’s individual needs are not targeted at themselves but others, providing benefits to both sides through need fulfillment and positive change.

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Maslow’s hierarchy of needs offers a system that looks a people’s basic and advanced desires and aims. It presents a model that addresses people’s anxieties, social nature, and independence. The basic levels of the pyramid also highlight the roles of bodily functions, which are not debated by most scholars. The updated version also considers cognitive and aesthetic concerns and provides a view that is focused on community, nature, and service. While there exist many criticisms of the model, they do not account for the new pyramid. These comments are, nonetheless, valid because the majority of people know about the original hierarchy which considers only some of the people’s fundamental needs.


Bouzenita, A. I., & Boulanouar, A. W. (2016). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: An Islamic critique. Intellectual Discourse, 24(1), 59-81.

Datta, Y. (2013). Maslow’s hierarchy of basic needs: An ecological view. Oxford Journal: An International Journal of Business & Economics, 8(1), 53-67.

Harrigan, W. J., & Commons, M. L. (2015). Replacing Maslow’s needs hierarchy with an account based on stage and value. Behavioral Development Bulletin, 20(1), 24-31.

Jackson, J. C., Santoro, M. J., Ely, T. M., Boehm, L., Kiehl, A. L., Anderson, L. S., & Ely, E. W. (2014). Improving patient care through the prism of psychology: Application of Maslow’s hierarchy to sedation, delirium, and early mobility in the intensive care unit. Journal of Critical Care, 29(3), 438-444.

McLeod, S. A. (2018). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Web.

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