Maslow's pyramid: practical examples of each level

There are many models in psychology designed to seek our well-being and guide our internal motivation. One of the best known models is that of Abraham Maslow , this humanistic psychologist spent a large part of his career creating a model of hierarchies of needs known as the Maslow pyramid.

This model is widely known throughout the world since it is very useful in psychological practice. The main goal of the pyramid is to organize our needs and establish a hierarchy.

If you are interested in the Maslow pyramid and want to see practical examples of each level, we recommend you to continue reading this article on

You may also be interested in: Theory of Maslow's Human Motivation

Abraham Maslow and humanistic psychology

Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) was a US psychologist born in Palo Alto, California. He is known for founding, along with other experts, humanistic psychology, a discipline born as an alternative to behaviorism and psychoanalysis.

Maslow was the older brother of seven children, he himself claimed that he grew up lonely, with few friends and among many books. He began his studies in psychology investigating the sexual behaviors in primates, years later and after much evolution in his postulates, he brought to light a theory about human motivation called " the hierarchy of needs ". One of his main mentors was Alfred Adler, pioneer of individual psychology and an important scholar of personality theories.

Humanistic psychology

As a humanistic psychologist , Maslow explored people's inner motivations, innate desires and the meaning of our lives. The humanistic approach focuses on developing the potential of people and the qualities that distinguish us as empathic, rational beings and, as their name suggests, human. It is necessary to understand the theories and techniques of humanism to understand exactly the theory of Maslow's pyramid.

What is Maslow's pyramid

For the psychologist Abraham Maslow, the motivation is defined as the impulse of the human being to satisfy his needs, said necessities needed a classification or hierarchy , since some are more important for the human survival than others.

In that context, Maslow proposed a theory of motivation in which he affirmed that there was a hierarchy in human needs and that, in the first place, those that are considered more basic should be satisfied. To each covered need, the human being advances in the hierarchy until satisfying his highest desires.

Being a hierarchical organization, this model has a pyramid shape and consists of five levels:
  • Physiology
  • Security
  • Membership
  • Recognition
  • Self realisation

The pyramid of Maslow's needs

Broadly speaking, we can affirm that the most basic needs (also known as primordial needs ) constitute the lowest part of the pyramid while, on the other hand, the highest or growing needs are located at the upper end of the figure. This order is because, in the first place, Maslow affirms that we must take care of the needs that keep us alive, such as eating, drinking and maintaining a good state of health. When we are stable and maintain a basic balance, we can try to reach and satisfy our needs for knowledge and personal fulfillment.

Examples of each level of Maslow's pyramid

Next, we will explain each level of this model and put practical examples to better understand how the hierarchy of human needs works .

1. Physiology

The base of this pyramid comprises the needs of our organic system . The human body must maintain a certain balance to be able to function properly and this balance is achieved with a correct diet, rest, hydration ... Maslow also adds sex as a physiological need. Despite being a debatable element at the individual level, it is true that sex is essential for the survival of the species.
  • Example: the first thing we will need as a human being will be breathing, eating, drinking and sleeping. Until these needs are met, we will not be able to focus on other concerns.

2. Security

Once basic physiological needs are met, we begin to worry about our safety. This level includes job stability , the fact of having a home, having available resources ... feeling safe and stable reduces our warning systems and allows us to advance in the hierarchy. This level also includes needs related to the stability of the family circle.
  • Example: a security need is to know what we have a roof under which to sleep, after having our controlled organic state, we will want to cover this type of need.

3. Affiliation

The need for affiliation corresponds to that related to social relations , participation in events and meetings and the acceptance of peers. The human being is social by nature (to a greater or lesser degree) and we need to maintain a circle of social networks to obtain a correct mental stability.
  • Example: once we have a plate on the table and a roof under which to sleep, we begin to worry about our friends and our peer group. The companionship, the affection between other people and sexual intimacy are clear examples of this level.

4. Recognition

When we speak of recognition, we refer to the need for esteem and appreciation , both for others and for the promotion of self-esteem. Inferiority complexes are born when this level of the pyramid is not satisfied.
  • Example: for the human being, it is practically essential that someone appreciates us and values ​​our actions. In addition, strengthening the foundations of self-esteem is essential to achieve a correct mental balance.

5. Self-realization

According to Maslow, this last level is no longer considered a primordial need. This is because we can only get to focus our attention on self-realization when we fully satisfy other human needs. This level includes emotional objectives such as morality, creativity, acceptance of the facts ...
  • Example: when we finally feel at ease physically and mentally, we are able to direct our efforts towards higher goals. Personal and human development is completed reaching this level. An example of a person who has reached this end of the pyramid is one who has all his needs covered and devotes a large part of his time to altruism, social work and spiritual growth.

Hierarchy of needs: characteristic features
Once we know the practical examples of each level , it is important to analyze the basic rules that maintain order in this hierarchy of needs:
  • The behavior of human beings is altered when one of the needs is not satisfied, especially if it is basic needs.
  • The physiological needs are born of the individual , the rest appear over time
  • Non-primordial needs (such as self-realization) can also be met even though basic needs are not completely covered. However, according to the same hierarchy of needs, it is more important to seek the satisfaction of basic needs .
  • Human needs are shared by all individuals to a lesser or greater extent

Criticisms of Maslow's pyramid model

Although this theory continues to apply today, Maslow's hierarchy of priorities has some flaws when it comes to analyzing how the human being acts in real life. There are cases of people who, for example, put at risk their basic physiological needs in search of self-esteem and social acceptance.

This is the case of eating disorders, people who suffer from it stop eating and go to atrophy the organic system with a goal quite far from the bases of the pyramid. Another example is the behavior of infidelity in marriages, where one of the parties puts at risk the family security for other needs of self-esteem and acceptance.

Currently, the model of the hierarchy of needs is not something dogmatic , we know that it has failures and that it does not always apply. Still, it is a very useful theory to learn how to prioritize our lives and detect our emotional motivations.

Maslow's pyramid in economics

In addition to being a widespread theory in the field of social psychology and motivational psychotherapies, the hierarchy of needs also applies to the economic model, more specifically in marketing. Advertising campaigns use strategies that appeal to the satisfaction of one or more needs.
  • Example: in colony ads, even though the product sold is a spray with fragrance, the sales strategies focus the content of the ads on the needs of affiliation and self-realization (attractive actors and actresses, surrounded by people and many metaphors appealing to success).