Online College Courses for Credit

4 Tutorials that teach Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Take your pick:
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Author: Sophia Tutorial

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand the concept of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

See More
Fast, Free College Credit

Developing Effective Teams

Let's Ride
*No strings attached. This college course is 100% free and is worth 1 semester credit.

29 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

312 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 27 of Sophia’s online courses. Many different colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.


What's Covered

In this lesson, we’ll discuss basic human needs, and how understanding them can in turn help us understand what is at the root of certain conflicts.

In particular, we’ll look at

  1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
    1. Physiological
    2. Safety
    3. Love/belonging
    4. Esteem
    5. Self-actualization
  2. Movement on the hierarchy


Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a model of universal categories of human needs developed by Abraham Maslow.

Abraham Maslow a psychologist who lived during the 20th Century; he was born in 1908, and he studied people who were mentally healthy in addition to people who had severe psychological issues.

He wanted to focus on mentally healthy people in order to find out what made them tick. As a result of these studies, he came up with the Hierarchy of Needs.

He felt that all people need to fulfill basic human needs in a particular hierarchical order. He also came to believe that as human beings, we aren't here just to blindly react to situations. Rather, all of us are capable of accomplishing greater things.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is thus designed to demonstrate the positive potential of human beings.

From bottom to top, the needs in this hierarchy are:

  • Physiological
  • Safety
  • Love/belonging
  • Esteem
  • Self-actualization

Term to Know

    • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
    • A model of universal categories of human needs, developed by Abraham Maslow.

a. Physiological Needs

At the physiological level, the needs are things like:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Sleep
  • Air

These are basic needs that we all must have. If we don't have these needs, we're not going to be able to focus on anything else until they are satisfied.

b. Safety

Once we have those basic physiological needs satisfied, we can move to safety, which has to do with:

  • Security
  • Stability
  • Shelter

At this level, we have jobs and homes. These are resources that keep us feeling secure, and keep our families safe.

c. Love/Belonging

Following safety is love and belonging, which includes things like:

  • Friends
  • Family
  • Affection
  • Approval

We all have needs that involve being affiliated with others. Whether we join groups at our jobs, within our families, or in our communities, we all want the affection and approval that these relationships provide.

d. Esteem

Once we've satisfied needs at that level, we move to esteem, which involves:

  • Respect
  • Recognition
  • Achievement

We all have a need for people to recognize us for what we can and do accomplish.

e. Self-Actualization

The highest level on the hierarchy is self-actualization, which focuses on human potential:

  • What are our capabilities?
  • Can we give greater meaning to what we're doing?

When we focus on these self-actualization needs, we already have the other needs satisfied. We're not going to be able to focus very strongly on self-actualization if we’re trying to take care of needs at the safety level.


Furthermore, we can move up and down this hierarchy of needs, depending on what is happening to us at any particular time in our lives.

Example We may have a good job, a good income, and a nice home. Then we learn that we might lose our job because the company is having layoffs. Perhaps we even find ourselves in conflict with others at our workplace -- people that we were never in conflict with before -- because we’re all competing for fewer jobs.

This conflict occurs because the basic needs of security and stability in our lives are being threatened. We are focusing on the safety level of needs, so we probably aren't thinking about higher levels. Right now we just want the security that comes with keeping our job.

Example If there is a natural disaster, we might find ourselves stranded without a home, perhaps without access to food or water. We would then once again need to focus on the lower levels of needs.

Around the world, there are also reports of refugee camps, in which simply trying to get water or food leads to conflicts between people who would never fight over that sort of thing except when there's a scarcity.

So when we move back and forth along this hierarchy of needs, what we’re all looking for is to meet our potential at the higher levels. We all want love and belonging, and esteem; we want to feel like we're part of a group, and be recognized.

When those needs are met, we then look for an even a greater sense of our full potential, and the meaning and purpose in our lives.

Big Idea

Maslow believed that this hierarchy reflects the needs that all humans have. We are constantly moving up and down the hierarchy, depending on what's happening in our lives, and what our current needs are in any particular situation.

By better understanding these needs, we can better understand what might be fueling a particular conflict.


In this lesson, you learned that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was developed by Abraham Maslow, and is a model of universal human needs. From bottom to top, these needs are physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

You now understand that we must satisfy the lower-level needs before we can focus on those at the higher level. We move up and down this hierarchy as we go through different situations in our lives, and understanding this can help us get to the root of whatever conflicts we might experience.

Good luck!

Source: Adapted from Sophia tutorial by Marlene Johnson.

Terms to Know
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

A model of universal categories of human needs, developed by Abraham Maslow.