Needs pyramid

Also known as: Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Maslow's pyramid

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a model from humanistic psychology and the research field of motivation. Developed by the American psychologist Maslow, it illustrates the hierarchy of human needs, the satisfaction of which is the basis of physical and mental health.

Definition / explanation

Every individual has needs that arise from a feeling of lack. Needs can be differentiated according to necessity (basic, cultural and luxury needs) or according to the type of means (material or immaterial).

The scarcity of goods in connection with budget restrictions, i.e. the finite amount of available capital, form the framework for this feeling.

Grundsätzlich gehen wir davon aus, dass die Summe der Wünsche stets größer ist als die vorhandenen Möglichkeiten. Erst wenn Bedürfnisse mit entsprechender Purchasing power ausgestattet sind, entsteht aus ihnen ein Bedarf.

The Maslow hierarchy of needs clarifies the hierarchy of needs by converting them into a fixed level structure. The next higher level is only aimed for when previous needs have been met. After extensive criticism, Maslow emphasized that no 100%ige fulfillment of the levels has to be guaranteed in order to be motivated to approach higher goals. An individual can pursue several satisfactions of needs at the same time.

Deficit needs and growth needs

Maslow distinguished two different groups of needs in his theory of the pyramid-like arrangement. On the one hand, he defined deficit needs: If they are not fulfilled, these are perceived as a substantial deficiency, which can lead to physical and psychological illnesses. For all deficit needs it applies that they arise and have to be satisfied at regular intervals.

Deficit needs

  • Physiological needs (sleep, eating, drinking, etc.)
  • Security needs (protection against illness, safe environment, order, etc.)
  • Social needs (interpersonal contact, belonging, etc.)
  • I needs (confidence, freedom, reputation, etc.)

Growth needs

  • Self-realization (development of one's own personality)
  • Transcendence (striving for something higher, outside of human existence)

Order of needs

The special thing about Maslow's hierarchy of needs is its arrangement of the need groups. These are arranged according to their urgency, which is why the physiological needs represent the broad base of the pyramid, while self-realization forms the top:

  1. Physiological needs
  2. Security needs
  3. Social needs
  4. I needs / individual needs
  5. Self-actualization
  6. transcendence

Maslow assumes that human deficit needs must first be satisfied before the motivation to meet growth needs arises.

example: Anyone who has to worry about sufficient food every day does not pursue self-realization.

With this pyramidal structure, Maslow wants to make it clear that the lower levels occur earlier, on the one hand, and on the other hand, reaching the next higher level requires satisfaction from the previous one. According to this, basic needs are satisfied first and consequently offer a lower state of tension in terms of forces to be mobilized, which is why individuals turn to the next level of need (principle of progression).


  • Bedürfnispyramide nach Maslow ist ein Inhaltsmodell der Motivational research
  • visualizes the order of urgency according to which different needs are satisfied
  • differentiates between deficit and growth needs
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