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A Theory of Human Motivation
A. H. Maslow (1943)
Originally Published in Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.
Posted August 2000
[p. 370] I. INTRODUCTION
In a previous paper (13) various propositions were presented which would have to be
in any theory of human motivation that could lay claim to being definitive. These
may be briefly summarized as follows:
1. The integrated wholeness of the organism must be one of the foundation stones
of motivation theory.
2. The hunger drive (or any other physiological drive) was rejected as a centering
point or model for a definitive theory of motivation. Any drive that is somatically
based and localizable was shown to be atypical rather than typical in human
3. Such a theory should stress and center itself upon ultimate or basic goals rather
than partial or superficial ones, upon ends rather than means to these ends. Such a
stress would imply a more central place for unconscious than for conscious
4. There are usually available various cultural paths to the same goal. Therefore
conscious, specific, local-cultural desires are not as fundamental in motivation
theory as the more basic, unconscious goals.
5. Any motivated behavior, either preparatory or consummatory, must be
understood to be a channel through which many basic needs may be
simultaneously expressed or satisfied. Typically an act has more than one
6. Practically all organismic states are to be understood as motivated and as
7. Human needs arrange themselves in hierarchies of pre-potency. That is to say,
the appearance of one need usually rests on the prior satisfaction of another, more
pre-potent need. Man is a perpetually wanting animal. Also no need or drive can be
treated as if it were isolated or discrete; every drive is related to the state of
satisfaction or dissatisfaction of other drives.
8. Lists of drives will get us nowhere for various theoretical and practical reasons.
Furthermore any classification of motivations [p. 371] must deal with the problem of
levels of specificity or generalization the motives to be classified.
9. Classifications of motivations must be based upon goals rather than upon
instigating drives or motivated behavior.
10. Motivation theory should be human-centered rather than animal-centered.
11. The situation or the field in which the organism reacts must be taken into
account but the field alone can rarely serve as an exclusive explanation for
behavior. Furthermore the field itself must be interpreted in terms of the organism.
Field theory cannot be a substitute for motivation theory.
12. Not only the integration of the organism must be taken into account, but also the
possibility of isolated, specific, partial or segmental reactions. It has since become
necessary to add to these another affirmation.
13. Motivation theory is not synonymous with behavior theory. The motivations are
only one class of determinants of behavior. While behavior is almost always
motivated, it is also almost always biologically, culturally and situationally
determined as well.
The present paper is an attempt to formulate a positive theory of motivation which will
these theoretical demands and at the same time conform to the known facts, clinical and
observational as well as experimental. It derives most directly, however, from clinical
experience. This theory is, I think, in the functionalist tradition of James and Dewey, and
fused with the holism of Wertheimer (19), Goldstein (6), and Gestalt Psychology, and
dynamicism of Freud (4) and Adler (1). This fusion or synthesis may arbitrarily be called
It is far easier to perceive and to criticize the aspects in motivation theory than to remedy them.
Mostly this is because of the very serious lack of sound data in this area. I conceive this
sound facts to be due primarily to the absence of a valid theory of motivation. The
theory then must be considered to be a suggested program or framework for future
and must stand or fall, not so much on facts available or evidence presented, as upon
researches to be done, researches suggested perhaps, by the questions raised in this
II. THE BASIC NEEDS
The 'physiological' needs. -- The needs that are usually taken as the starting point for motivation theory are the so-called physiological drives. Two recent lines of research
necessary to revise our customary notions about these needs, first, the development of
concept of homeostasis, and second, the finding that appetites (preferential choices
foods) are a fairly efficient indication of actual needs or lacks in the body.
Homeostasis refers to the body's automatic efforts to maintain a constant, normal state
blood stream. Cannon (2) has described this process for (1) the water content of the
salt content, (3) sugar content, (4) protein content, (5) fat content, (6) calcium content,
oxygen content, (8) constant hydrogen-ion level (acid-base balance) and (9) constant
temperature of the blood. Obviously this list can be extended to include other minerals,
hormones, vitamins, etc.
Young in a recent article (21) has summarized the work on appetite in its relation to body
needs. If the body lacks some chemical, the individual will tend to develop a specific
partial hunger for that food element.
Thus it seems impossible as well as useless to make any list of fundamental
needs for they can come to almost any number one might wish, depending on the
specificity of description. We can not identify all physiological needs as homeostatic.
sexual desire, sleepiness, sheer activity and maternal behavior in animals, are
has not yet been demonstrated. Furthermore, this list would not include the various
pleasures (tastes, smells, tickling, stroking) which are probably physiological and which
become the goals of motivated behavior.
In a previous paper (13) it has been pointed out that these physiological drives or needs
be considered unusual rather than typical because they are isolable, and because they
localizable somatically. That is to say, they are relatively independent of each other, of
motivations [p. 373] and of the organism as a whole, and secondly, in many cases, it is
to demonstrate a localized, underlying somatic base for the drive. This is true less
than has been thought (exceptions are fatigue, sleepiness, maternal responses) but it is
true in the classic instances of hunger, sex, and thirst.
It should be pointed out again that any of the physiological needs and the consummatory
behavior involved with them serve as channels for all sorts of other needs as well. That
say, the person who thinks he is hungry may actually be seeking more for comfort, or
dependence, than for vitamins or proteins. Conversely, it is possible to satisfy the hunger
in part by other activities such as drinking water or smoking cigarettes. In other words,
isolable as these physiological needs are, they are not completely so.
Undoubtedly these physiological needs are the most pre-potent of all needs. What this
specifically is, that in the human being who is missing everything in life in an extreme
is most likely that the major motivation would be the physiological needs rather than any
A person who is lacking food, safety, love, and esteem would most probably hunger for
more strongly than for anything else.
If all the needs are unsatisfied, and the organism is then dominated by the physiological
all other needs may become simply non-existent or be pushed into the background. It is
fair to characterize the whole organism by saying simply that it is hungry, for
almost completely preempted by hunger. All capacities are put into the service of
satisfaction, and the organization of these capacities is almost entirely determined by the
purpose of satisfying hunger. The receptors and effectors, the intelligence, memory,
may now be defined simply as hunger-gratifying tools. Capacities that are not useful for
purpose lie dormant, or are pushed into the background. The urge to write poetry, the
acquire an automobile, the interest in American history, the desire for a new pair of
in the extreme case, forgotten or become of sec-[p.374]ondary importance. For the man
extremely and dangerously hungry, no other interests exist but food. He dreams food, he
remembers food, he thinks about food, he emotes only about food, he perceives only
he wants only food. The more subtle determinants that ordinarily fuse with the
drives in organizing even feeding, drinking or sexual behavior, may now be so
overwhelmed as to allow us to speak at this time (but only at this time) of pure hunger
behavior, with the one unqualified aim of relief.
Another peculiar characteristic of the human organism when it is dominated by a certain
that the whole philosophy of the future tends also to change. For our chronically and
hungry man, Utopia can be defined very simply as a place where there is plenty of food.
tends to think that, if only he is guaranteed food for the rest of his life, he will be perfectly happy
and will never want anything more. Life itself tends to be defined in terms of eating.
else will be defined as unimportant. Freedom, love, community feeling, respect,
may all be waved aside as fripperies which are useless since they fail to fill the stomach.
a man may fairly be said to live by bread alone.
It cannot possibly be denied that such things are true but their generality can be denied.
Emergency conditions are, almost by definition, rare in the normally functioning peaceful
society. That this truism can be forgotten is due mainly to two reasons. First, rats have
motivations other than physiological ones, and since so much of the research upon
has been made with these animals, it is easy to carry the rat-picture over to the human
Secondly, it is too often not realized that culture itself is an adaptive tool, one of whose
functions is to make the physiological emergencies come less and less often. In most of
known societies, chronic extreme hunger of the emergency type is rare, rather than
any case, this is still true in the United States. The average American citizen is
appetite rather than hunger when he says "I am [p. 375] hungry." He is apt to experience sheer
life-and-death hunger only by accident and then only a few times through his entire life.
Obviously a good way to obscure the 'higher' motivations, and to get a lopsided view of
capacities and human nature, is to make the organism extremely and chronically hungry
thirsty. Anyone who attempts to make an emergency picture into a typical one, and who
measure all of man's goals and desires by his behavior during extreme physiological
deprivation is certainly being blind to many things. It is quite true that man lives by bread alone
-- when there is no bread. But what happens to man's desires when there is plenty of
when his belly is chronically filled?
At once other (and 'higher') needs emerge and these, rather than physiological hungers, dominate the organism. And when these in turn are satisfied, again new (and still
needs emerge and so on. This is what we mean by saying that the basic human needs
organized into a hierarchy of relative prepotency.
One main implication of this phrasing is that gratification becomes as important a
deprivation in motivation theory, for it releases the organism from the domination of a
more physiological need, permitting thereby the emergence of other more social goals.
physiological needs, along with their partial goals, when chronically gratified cease to
active determinants or organizers of behavior. They now exist only in a potential fashion
sense that they may emerge again to dominate the organism if they are thwarted. But a
that is satisfied is no longer a want. The organism is dominated and its behavior
by unsatisfied needs. If hunger is satisfied, it becomes unimportant in the current
This statement is somewhat qualified by a hypothesis to be discussed more fully later,
that it is precisely those individuals in whom a certain need has always been satisfied
best equipped to tolerate deprivation of that need in the future, and that furthermore,
have been de-[p. 376]prived in the past will react differently to current satisfactions than
who has never been deprived.
The safety needs. -- If the physiological needs are relatively well gratified, there then emerges a
new set of needs, which we may categorize roughly as the safety needs. All that has
of the physiological needs is equally true, although in lesser degree, of these desires.
organism may equally well be wholly dominated by them. They may serve as the almost
exclusive organizers of behavior, recruiting all the capacities of the organism in their
and we may then fairly describe the whole organism as a safety-seeking mechanism.
may say of the receptors, the effectors, of the intellect and the other capacities that they
primarily safety-seeking tools. Again, as in the hungry man, we find that the dominating
a strong determinant not only of his current world-outlook and philosophy but also of his
philosophy of the future. Practically everything looks less important than safety, (even
sometimes the physiological needs which being satisfied, are now underestimated). A
this state, if it is extreme enough and chronic enough, may be characterized as living
Although in this paper we are interested primarily in the needs of the adult, we can
understanding of his safety needs perhaps more efficiently by observation of infants and
children, in whom these needs are much more simple and obvious. One reason for the
appearance of the threat or danger reaction in infants, is that they do not inhibit this
all, whereas adults in our society have been taught to inhibit it at all costs. Thus even
adults do feel their safety to be threatened we may not be able to see this on the
Infants will react in a total fashion and as if they were endangered, if they are disturbed
dropped suddenly, startled by loud noises, flashing light, or other unusual sensory
by rough handling, by general loss of support in the mother's arms, or by inadequate
In infants we can also see a much more direct reaction to bodily illnesses of various
Sometimes these illnesses seem to be immediately and per se threatening and seem to
the child feel unsafe. For instance, vomiting, colic or other sharp pains seem to make the
look at the whole world in a different way. At such a moment of pain, it may be
for the child, the appearance of the whole world suddenly changes from sunniness to
so to speak, and becomes a place in which anything at all might happen, in which
stable things have suddenly become unstable. Thus a child who because of some bad
taken ill may, for a day or two, develop fear, nightmares, and a need for protection and
reassurance never seen in him before his illness.
Another indication of the child's need for safety is his preference for some kind of
routine or rhythm. He seems to want a predictable, orderly world. For instance, injustice,
unfairness, or inconsistency in the parents seems to make a child feel anxious and
attitude may be not so much because of the injustice per se or any particular pains
but rather because this treatment threatens to make the world look unreliable, or unsafe,
unpredictable. Young children seem to thrive better under a system which has at least a
skeletal outline of rigidity, In which there is a schedule of a kind, some sort of routine,
something that can be counted upon, not only for the present but also far into the future.
Perhaps one could express this more accurately by saying that the child needs an
world rather than an unorganized or unstructured one.
The central role of the parents and the normal family setup are indisputable. Quarreling,
physical assault, separation, divorce or death within the family may be particularly
Also parental outbursts of rage or threats of punishment directed to the child, calling him
names, speaking to him harshly, shaking him, handling him roughly, or actual [p. 378]
punishment sometimes elicit such total panic and terror in the child that we must assume
is involved than the physical pain alone. While it is true that in some children this terror
represent also a fear of loss of parental love, it can also occur in completely rejected
who seem to cling to the hating parents more for sheer safety and protection than
hope of love.
Confronting the average child with new, unfamiliar, strange, unmanageable stimuli or
will too frequently elicit the danger or terror reaction, as for example, getting lost or even being
separated from the parents for a short time, being confronted with new faces, new
new tasks, the sight of strange, unfamiliar or uncontrollable objects, illness or death.
Particularly at such times, the child's frantic clinging to his parents is eloquent testimony to their
role as protectors (quite apart from their roles as food-givers and love-givers).
From these and similar observations, we may generalize and say that the average child
society generally prefers a safe, orderly, predictable, organized world, which he can
and in which unexpected, unmanageable or other dangerous things do not happen, and
which, in any case, he has all-powerful parents who protect and shield him from harm.
That these reactions may so easily be observed in children is in a way a proof of the fact
children in our society, feel too unsafe (or, in a word, are badly brought up). Children
reared in an unthreatening, loving family do not ordinarily react as we have described
(17). In such children the danger reactions are apt to come mostly to objects or
adults too would consider dangerous.
The healthy, normal, fortunate adult in our culture is largely satisfied in his safety needs.
peaceful, smoothly [p. 379] running, 'good' society ordinarily makes its members feel
enough from wild animals, extremes of temperature, criminals, assault and murder,
etc. Therefore, in a very real sense, he no longer has any safety needs as active
Just as a sated man no longer feels hungry, a safe man no longer feels endangered. If
to see these needs directly and clearly we must turn to neurotic or near-neurotic
and to the economic and social underdogs. In between these extremes, we can perceive
expressions of safety needs only in such phenomena as, for instance, the common
for a job with tenure and protection, the desire for a savings account, and for insurance
various kinds (medical, dental, unemployment, disability, old age).
Other broader aspects of the attempt to seek safety and stability in the world are seen in
very common preference for familiar rather than unfamiliar things, or for the known
the unknown. The tendency to have some religion or world-philosophy that organizes the
universe and the men in it into some sort of satisfactorily coherent, meaningful whole is
part motivated by safety-seeking. Here too we may list science and philosophy in
partially motivated by the safety needs (we shall see later that there are also other
to scientific, philosophical or religious endeavor).
Otherwise the need for safety is seen as an active and dominant mobilizer of the
resources only in emergencies, e. g., war, disease, natural catastrophes, crime waves, societal
disorganization, neurosis, brain injury, chronically bad situation.
Some neurotic adults in our society are, in many ways, like the unsafe child in their
safety, although in the former it takes on a somewhat special appearance. Their reaction
often to unknown, psychological dangers in a world that is perceived to be hostile,
overwhelming and threatening. Such a person behaves as if a great catastrophe were
always impending, i.e., he is usually responding as if to an emergency. His safety needs
find specific [p. 380] expression in a search for a protector, or a stronger person on
may depend, or perhaps, a Fuehrer.
The neurotic individual may be described in a slightly different way with some usefulness
grown-up person who retains his childish attitudes toward the world. That is to say, a
adult may be said to behave 'as if' he were actually afraid of a spanking, or of his
disapproval, or of being abandoned by his parents, or having his food taken away from
him. It is
as if his childish attitudes of fear and threat reaction to a dangerous world had gone
underground, and untouched by the growing up and learning processes, were now ready
called out by any stimulus that would make a child feel endangered and threatened.
The neurosis in which the search for safety takes its dearest form is in the compulsive-
obsessive neurosis. Compulsive-obsessives try frantically to order and stabilize the
that no unmanageable, unexpected or unfamiliar dangers will ever appear (14); They
themselves about with all sorts of ceremonials, rules and formulas so that every possible
contingency may be provided for and so that no new contingencies may appear. They
much like the brain injured cases, described by Goldstein (6), who manage to maintain
equilibrium by avoiding everything unfamiliar and strange and by ordering their restricted
in such a neat, disciplined, orderly fashion that everything in the world can be counted
They try to arrange the world so that anything unexpected (dangers) cannot possibly
through no fault of their own, something unexpected does occur, they go into a panic
as if this unexpected occurrence constituted a grave danger. What we can see only as a
too-strong preference in the healthy person, e. g., preference for the familiar, becomes a life-and-death. necessity in abnormal cases.
The love needs. -- If both the physiological and the safety needs are fairly well gratified, then
there will emerge the love and affection and belongingness needs, and the whole cycle
already described will repeat itself with this new center. Now the person will feel keenly,
never before, the absence of friends, or a sweetheart, or a wife, or children. He will
affectionate relations with people in general, namely, for a place in his group, and he will
with great intensity to achieve this goal. He will want to attain such a place more than
else in the world and may even forget that once, when he was hungry, he sneered at
In our society the thwarting of these needs is the most commonly found core in cases of
maladjustment and more severe psychopathology. Love and affection, as well as their
expression in sexuality, are generally looked upon with ambivalence and are customarily
hedged about with many restrictions and inhibitions. Practically all theorists of
have stressed thwarting of the love needs as basic in the picture of maladjustment.
clinical studies have therefore been made of this need and we know more about it
any of the other needs except the physiological ones (14).
One thing that must be stressed at this point is that love is not synonymous with sex.
be studied as a purely physiological need. Ordinarily sexual behavior is multi-
is to say, determined not only by sexual but also by other needs, chief among which are
love and affection needs. Also not to be overlooked is the fact that the love needs
giving and receiving love.
The esteem needs. -- All people in our society (with a few pathological exceptions) have a need
or desire for a stable, firmly based, (usually) high evaluation of themselves, for self-
self-esteem, and for the esteem of others. By firmly based self-esteem, we mean that
soundly based upon real capacity, achievement and respect from others. These needs
classified into two subsidiary sets. These are, first, the desire for strength, for
adequacy, for confidence in the face of the world, and for independence and freedom.
Secondly, we have what [p. 382] we may call the desire for reputation or prestige
(defining it as
respect or esteem from other people), recognition, attention, importance or
These needs have been relatively stressed by Alfred Adler and his followers, and have
relatively neglected by Freud and the psychoanalysts. More and more today however
appearing widespread appreciation of their central importance.
Satisfaction of the self-esteem need leads to feelings of self-confidence, worth, strength,
capability and adequacy of being useful and necessary in the world. But thwarting of
needs produces feelings of inferiority, of weakness and of helplessness. These feelings
give rise to either basic discouragement or else compensatory or neurotic trends. An
appreciation of the necessity of basic self-confidence and an understanding of how
people are without it, can be easily gained from a study of severe traumatic neurosis
The need for self-actualization. -- Even if all these needs are satisfied, we may still often (if not
always) expect that a new discontent and restlessness will soon develop, unless the
is doing what he is fitted for. A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet
write, if he is to be ultimately happy. What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call
This term, first coined by Kurt Goldstein, is being used in this paper in a much more
and limited fashion. It refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to
become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the
become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of
The specific form that these needs will take will of course vary greatly from person to
one individual it may take the form of the desire to be an ideal mother, in another it may
expressed athletically, and in still another it may be expressed in painting pictures or in
inventions. It is not necessarily a creative urge although in people who have any
creation it will take this form.
The clear emergence of these needs rests upon prior satisfaction of the physiological,
love and esteem needs. We shall call people who are satisfied in these needs, basically
satisfied people, and it is from these that we may expect the fullest (and healthiest)
creativeness. Since, in our society, basically satisfied people are the exception, we do
know much about self-actualization, either experimentally or clinically. It remains a
problem for research.
The preconditions for the basic need satisfactions. -- There are certain conditions which are
immediate prerequisites for the basic need satisfactions. Danger to these is reacted to
as if it were a direct danger to the basic needs themselves. Such conditions as freedom
speak, freedom to do what one wishes so long as no harm is done to others, freedom to
express one's self, freedom to investigate and seek for information, freedom to defend
self, justice, fairness, honesty, orderliness in the group are examples of such
basic need satisfactions. Thwarting in these freedoms will be reacted to with a threat or
emergency response. These conditions are not ends in themselves but they are almost
since they are so closely related to the basic needs, which are apparently the only ends
themselves. These conditions are defended because without them the basic
quite impossible, or at least, very severely endangered.[p. 384]
If we remember that the cognitive capacities (perceptual, intellectual, learning) are a set
adjustive tools, which have, among other functions, that of satisfaction of our basic
it is clear that any danger to them, any deprivation or blocking of their free use, must
indirectly threatening to the basic needs themselves. Such a statement is a partial
the general problems of curiosity, the search for knowledge, truth and wisdom, and the
persistent urge to solve the cosmic mysteries.
We must therefore introduce another hypothesis and speak of degrees of closeness to
basic needs, for we have already pointed out that any conscious desires (partial goals) are
more or less important as they are more or less close to the basic needs. The same
may be made for various behavior acts. An act is psychologically important if it
directly to satisfaction of basic needs. The less directly it so contributes, or the weaker
contribution is, the less important this act must be conceived to be from the point of view
dynamic psychology. A similar statement may be made for the various defense or coping
mechanisms. Some are very directly related to the protection or attainment of the basic
others are only weakly and distantly related. Indeed if we wished, we could speak of
and less basic defense mechanisms, and then affirm that danger to the more basic
more threatening than danger to less basic defenses (always remembering that this is so
because of their relationship to the basic needs).
The desires to know and to understand. -- So far, we have mentioned the cognitive
in passing. Acquiring knowledge and systematizing the universe have been considered
part, techniques for the achievement of basic safety in the world, or, for the intelligent
expressions of self-actualization. Also freedom of inquiry and expression have been
as preconditions of satisfactions of the basic needs. True though these formulations may
they do not constitute definitive answers to the question as to the motivation role of
learning, philosophizing, experimenting, etc. They are, at best, no more than partial
This question is especially difficult because we know so little about the facts. Curiosity,
exploration, desire for the facts, desire to know may certainly be observed easily
fact that they often are pursued even at great cost to the individual's safety is an earnest
partial character of our previous discussion. In addition, the writer must admit that,
has sufficient clinical evidence to postulate the desire to know as a very strong drive in
intelligent people, no data are available for unintelligent people. It may then be largely a
function of relatively high intelligence. Rather tentatively, then, and largely in the hope of stimulating discussion and research, we shall postulate a basic desire to know, to be
reality, to get the facts, to satisfy curiosity, or as Wertheimer phrases it, to see rather
than to be
This postulation, however, is not enough. Even after we know, we are impelled to know
and more minutely and microscopically on the one hand, and on the other, more and
extensively in the direction of a world philosophy, religion, etc. The facts that we acquire, if they
are isolated or atomistic, inevitably get theorized about, and either analyzed or organized
both. This process has been phrased by some as the search for 'meaning.' We shall
postulate a desire to understand, to systematize, to organize, to analyze, to look for
Once these desires are accepted for discussion, we see that they too form themselves
small hierarchy in which the desire to know is prepotent over the desire to understand.
characteristics of a hierarchy of prepotency that we have described above, seem to hold
one as well.
We must guard ourselves against the too easy tendency to separate these desires from
basic needs we have discussed above, i.e., to make a sharp dichotomy between
'conative' needs. The desire to know and to understand are themselves conative, i.e.,
striving character, and are as much personality needs as the 'basic needs' we have
discussed (19).[p. 386]
III. FURTHER CHARACTERISTICS OF THE BASIC NEEDS
The degree of fixity of the hierarchy of basic needs. -- We have spoken so far as if this hierarchy were a fixed order but actually it is not nearly as rigid as we may have implied.
true that most of the people with whom we have worked have seemed to have these
needs in about the order that has been indicated. However, there have been a number
(1) There are some people in whom, for instance, self-esteem seems to be more
love. This most common reversal in the hierarchy is usually due to the development of
notion that the person who is most likely to be loved is a strong or powerful person, one
inspires respect or fear, and who is self confident or aggressive. Therefore such people
lack love and seek it, may try hard to put on a front of aggressive, confident behavior.
essentially they seek high self-esteem and its behavior expressions more as a means-
end than for its own sake; they seek self-assertion for the sake of love rather than for
(2) There are other, apparently innately creative people in whom the drive to
seems to be more important than any other counter-determinant. Their creativeness
appear not as self-actualization released by basic satisfaction, but in spite of lack of
(3) In certain people the level of aspiration may be permanently deadened or lowered.
to say, the less pre-potent goals may simply be lost, and may disappear forever, so that
person who has experienced life at a very low level, i. e., chronic unemployment, may continue
to be satisfied for the rest of his life if only he can get enough food.
(4) The so-called 'psychopathic personality' is another example of permanent loss of the
needs. These are people who, according to the best data available (9), have been
love in the earliest months of their lives and have simply lost forever the desire and the
give and to receive affection (as animals lose sucking or pecking reflexes that are not
soon enough after birth).[p. 387]
(5) Another cause of reversal of the hierarchy is that when a need has been satisfied for
time, this need may be underevaluated. People who have never experienced chronic
are apt to underestimate its effects and to look upon food as a rather unimportant thing.
are dominated by a higher need, this higher need will seem to be the most important of
then becomes possible, and indeed does actually happen, that they may, for the sake of
higher need, put themselves into the position of being deprived in a more basic need.
expect that after a long-time deprivation of the more basic need there will be a tendency
reevaluate both needs so that the more pre-potent need will actually become
prepotent for the individual who may have given it up very lightly. Thus, a man who has
up his job rather than lose his self-respect, and who then starves for six months or so,
willing to take his job back even at the price of losing his a self-respect.
(6) Another partial explanation of apparent reversals is seen in the fact that we have been
talking about the hierarchy of prepotency in terms of consciously felt wants or desires
than of behavior. Looking at behavior itself may give us the wrong impression. What we
claimed is that the person will want the more basic of two needs when deprived in both.
is no necessary implication here that he will act upon his desires. Let us say again that
are many determinants of behavior other than the needs and desires.
(7) Perhaps more important than all these exceptions are the ones that involve ideals,
social standards, high values and the like. With such values people become martyrs;
up everything for the sake of a particular ideal, or value. These people may be
least in part, by reference to one basic concept (or hypothesis) which may be called
frustration-tolerance through early gratification'. People who have been satisfied in their
needs throughout their lives, particularly in their earlier years, seem to develop
power to withstand present or future thwarting of these needs simply because they have
[p. 388] healthy character structure as a result of basic satisfaction. They are the 'strong'
who can easily weather disagreement or opposition, who can swim against the stream of
opinion and who can stand up for the truth at great personal cost. It is just the ones who
loved and been well loved, and who have had many deep friendships who can hold out
hatred, rejection or persecution.
I say all this in spite of the fact that there is a certain amount of sheer habituation which is also
involved in any full discussion of frustration tolerance. For instance, it is likely that those persons who have been accustomed to relative starvation for a long time, are partially
thereby to withstand food deprivation. What sort of balance must be made between
tendencies, of habituation on the one hand, and of past satisfaction breeding present
tolerance on the other hand, remains to be worked out by further research. Meanwhile
assume that they are both operative, side by side, since they do not contradict each
respect to this phenomenon of increased frustration tolerance, it seems probable that the
important gratifications come in the first two years of life. That is to say, people who have been
made secure and strong in the earliest years, tend to remain secure and strong
thereafter in the
face of whatever threatens.
Degree of relative satisfaction. -- So far, our theoretical discussion may have given the impression that these five sets of needs are somehow in a step-wise, all-or-none
to each other. We have spoken in such terms as the following: "If one need is satisfied, then
another emerges." This statement might give the false impression that a need must be
100 per cent before the next need emerges. In actual fact, most members of our society
are normal, are partially satisfied in all their basic needs and partially unsatisfied in all their
basic needs at the same time. A more realistic description of the hierarchy would be in
decreasing percentages of satisfaction as we go up the hierarchy of prepotency, For
I may assign arbitrary figures for the sake of illustration, it is as if the average citizen [p.
satisfied perhaps 85 per cent in his physiological needs, 70 per cent in his safety needs,
cent in his love needs, 40 per cent in his self-esteem needs, and 10 per cent in his self-
As for the concept of emergence of a new need after satisfaction of the prepotent need,
emergence is not a sudden, saltatory phenomenon but rather a gradual emergence by
degrees from nothingness. For instance, if prepotent need A is satisfied only 10 per cent:
need B may not be visible at all. However, as this need A becomes satisfied 25 per cent,
B may emerge 5 per cent, as need A becomes satisfied 75 per cent need B may emerge
cent, and so on.
Unconscious character of needs. -- These needs are neither necessarily conscious nor
unconscious. On the whole, however, in the average person, they are more often
rather than conscious. It is not necessary at this point to overhaul the tremendous mass
evidence which indicates the crucial importance of unconscious motivation. It would by
expected, on a priori grounds alone, that unconscious motivations would on the whole
more important than the conscious motivations. What we have called the basic needs
often largely unconscious although they may, with suitable techniques, and with
people become conscious.
Cultural specificity and generality of needs. -- This classification of basic needs makes some
attempt to take account of the relative unity behind the superficial differences in specific
from one culture to another. Certainly in any particular culture an individual's conscious
motivational content will usually be extremely different from the conscious motivational
of an individual in another society. However, it is the common experience of
that people, even in different societies, are much more alike than we would think from
contact with them, and that as we know them better we seem to find more and more of
commonness, We then recognize the most startling differences to be superficial rather
basic, e. g., differences in style of hair-dress, clothes, tastes in food, etc. Our
basic [p. 390] needs is in part an attempt to account for this unity behind the apparent
from culture to culture. No claim is made that it is ultimate or universal for all cultures.
claim is made only that it is relatively more ultimate, more universal, more basic, than the superficial conscious desires from culture to culture, and makes a somewhat closer
to common-human characteristics, Basic needs are more common-human than
desires or behaviors.
Multiple motivations of behavior. -- These needs must be understood not to be exclusive or
single determiners of certain kinds of behavior. An example may be found in any
seems to be physiologically motivated, such as eating, or sexual play or the like. The
psychologists have long since found that any behavior may be a channel through which
various determinants. Or to say it in another way, most behavior is multi-motivated.
sphere of motivational determinants any behavior tends to be determined by several or
the basic needs simultaneously rather than by only one of them. The latter would be
exception than the former. Eating may be partially for the sake of filling the stomach, and
partially for the sake of comfort and amelioration of other needs. One may make love not
for pure sexual release, but also to convince one's self of one's masculinity, or to make a
conquest, to feel powerful, or to win more basic affection. As an illustration, I may point
it would be possible (theoretically if not practically) to analyze a single act of an
see in it the expression of his physiological needs, his safety needs, his love needs, his
needs and self-actualization. This contrasts sharply with the more naive brand of trait
psychology in which one trait or one motive accounts for a certain kind of act, i. e., an aggressive act is traced solely to a trait of aggressiveness.
Multiple determinants of behavior. -- Not all behavior is determined by the basic needs.
might even say that not all behavior is motivated. There are many determinants of
other than motives. For instance, one other im-[p. 391]portant class of determinants is
so-called 'field' determinants. Theoretically, at least, behavior may be determined
the field, or even by specific isolated external stimuli, as in association of ideas, or
conditioned reflexes. If in response to the stimulus word 'table' I immediately perceive a
memory image of a table, this response certainly has nothing to do with my basic needs.
Secondly, we may call attention again to the concept of 'degree of closeness to the basic
needs' or 'degree of motivation.' Some behavior is highly motivated, other behavior is
weakly motivated. Some is not motivated at all (but all behavior is determined).
Another important point  is that there is a basic difference between expressive
coping behavior (functional striving, purposive goal seeking). An expressive behavior
try to do anything; it is simply a reflection of the personality. A stupid man behaves
because he wants to, or tries to, or is motivated to, but simply because he is what he is.
same is true when I speak in a bass voice rather than tenor or soprano. The random
movements of a healthy child, the smile on the face of a happy man even when he is
springiness of the healthy man's walk, and the erectness of his carriage are other
expressive, non-functional behavior. Also the style in which a man carries out almost all his
behavior, motivated as well as unmotivated, is often expressive.
We may then ask, is all behavior expressive or reflective of the character structure? The answer is 'No.' Rote, habitual, automatized, or conventional behavior may or may not be
expressive. The same is true for most 'stimulus-bound' behaviors. It is finally necessary
stress that expressiveness of behavior, and goal-directedness of behavior are not
exclusive categories. Average behavior is usually both.
Goals as centering principle in motivation theory. -- It will be observed that the basic principle in
our classification has [p. 392] been neither the instigation nor the motivated behavior but
the functions, effects, purposes, or goals of the behavior. It has been proven sufficiently
various people that this is the most suitable point for centering in any motivation
Animal- and human-centering. -- This theory starts with the human being rather than any lower
and presumably 'simpler' animal. Too many of the findings that have been made in
have been proven to be true for animals but not for the human being. There is no reason
whatsoever why we should start with animals in order to study human motivation. The
rather illogic behind this general fallacy of 'pseudo-simplicity' has been exposed often
by philosophers and logicians as well as by scientists in each of the various fields. It is
necessary to study animals before one can study man than it is to study mathematics
one can study geology or psychology or biology.
We may also reject the old, naive, behaviorism which assumed that it was somehow
or at least more 'scientific' to judge human beings by animal standards. One
this belief was that the whole notion of purpose and goal was excluded from motivational
psychology simply because one could not ask a white rat about his purposes. Tolman
long since proven in animal studies themselves that this exclusion was not necessary.
Motivation and the theory of psychopathogenesis. -- The conscious motivational content of
everyday life has, according to the foregoing, been conceived to be relatively important
unimportant accordingly as it is more or less closely related to the basic goals. A desire
ice cream cone might actually be an indirect expression of a desire for love. If it is, then
desire for the ice cream cone becomes extremely important motivation. If however the
cream is simply something to cool the mouth with, or a casual appetitive reaction, then
desire is relatively unimportant. Everyday conscious desires are to be regarded as
as [p. 393] surface indicators of more basic needs. If we were to take these superficial desires
at their face value me would find ourselves in a state of complete confusion which could
be resolved, since we would be dealing seriously with symptoms rather than with what
behind the symptoms.
Thwarting of unimportant desires produces no psychopathological results; thwarting of a
basically important need does produce such results. Any theory of psychopathogenesis
then be based on a sound theory of motivation. A conflict or a frustration is not
pathogenic. It becomes so only when it threatens or thwarts the basic needs, or partial
that are closely related to the basic needs (10).
The role of gratified needs. -- It has been pointed out above several times that our needs usually emerge only when more prepotent needs have been gratified. Thus gratification
important role in motivation theory. Apart from this, however, needs cease to play an
determining or organizing role as soon as they are gratified.
What this means is that, e. g., a basically satisfied person no longer has the needs for esteem,
love, safety, etc. The only sense in which he might be said to have them is in the almost
metaphysical sense that a sated man has hunger, or a filled bottle has emptiness. If we
interested in what actually motivates us, and not in what has, will, or might motivate us, then a
satisfied need is not a motivator. It must be considered for all practical purposes simply
exist, to have disappeared. This point should be emphasized because it has been either
overlooked or contradicted in every theory of motivation I know. The perfectly
normal, fortunate man has no sex needs or hunger needs, or needs for safety, or for
love, or for
prestige, or self-esteem, except in stray moments of quickly passing threat. If we were to
otherwise, we should also have to aver that every man had all the pathological reflexes,
Babinski, etc., because if his nervous system were damaged, these would appear.
It is such considerations as these that suggest the bold [p. 394] postulation that a man
thwarted in any of his basic needs may fairly be envisaged simply as a sick man. This is
parallel to our designation as 'sick' of the man who lacks vitamins or minerals. Who is to
that a lack of love is less important than a lack of vitamins? Since we know the
effects of love starvation, who is to say that we are invoking value-questions in an
or illegitimate way, any more than the physician does who diagnoses and treats pellagra
scurvy? If I were permitted this usage, I should then say simply that a healthy man is
motivated by his needs to develop and actualize his fullest potentialities and capacities.
man has any other basic needs in any active, chronic sense, then he is simply an
man. He is as surely sick as if he had suddenly developed a strong salt-hunger or
If this statement seems unusual or paradoxical the reader may be assured that this is
among many such paradoxes that will appear as we revise our ways of looking at man's
motivations. When we ask what man wants of life, we deal with his very essence.
(1) There are at least five sets of goals, which we may call basic needs. These are
physiological, safety, love, 'esteem, and self-actualization. In addition, we are motivated
desire to achieve or maintain the various conditions upon which these basic satisfactions
and by certain more intellectual desires.
(2) These basic goals are related to each other, being arranged in a hierarchy of
This means that the most prepotent goal will monopolize consciousness and will tend of
organize the recruitment of the various capacities of the organism. The less prepotent
are [p. 395] minimized, even forgotten or denied. But when a need is fairly well satisfied,
next prepotent ('higher') need emerges, in turn to dominate the conscious life and to
the center of organization of behavior, since gratified needs are not active motivators.
Thus man is a perpetually wanting animal. Ordinarily the satisfaction of these wants is
altogether mutually exclusive, but only tends to be. The average member of our society
often partially satisfied and partially unsatisfied in all of his wants. The hierarchy principle is
usually empirically observed in terms of increasing percentages of non-satisfaction as
we go up
the hierarchy. Reversals of the average order of the hierarchy are sometimes observed.
has been observed that an individual may permanently lose the higher wants in the
under special conditions. There are not only ordinarily multiple motivations for usual
but in addition many determinants other than motives.
(3) Any thwarting or possibility of thwarting of these basic human goals, or danger to the
defenses which protect them, or to the conditions upon which they rest, is considered to
psychological threat. With a few exceptions, all psychopathology may be partially traced
such threats. A basically thwarted man may actually be defined as a 'sick' man, if we
(4) It is such basic threats which bring about the general emergency reactions.
(5) Certain other basic problems have not been dealt with because of limitations of
Among these are ( a) the problem of values in any definitive motivation theory, ( b) the relation
between appetites, desires, needs and what is 'good' for the organism, ( c) the etiology of the
basic needs and their possible derivation in early childhood, ( d) redefinition of
concepts, i. e., drive, desire, wish, need, goal, ( e) implication of our theory for hedonistic theory,
( f) the nature of the uncompleted act, of success and failure, and of aspiration-level, ( g) the role
of association, habit and conditioning, ( h) relation to the [p. 396] theory of inter-personal relations, ( i) implications for psychotherapy, ( j) implication for theory of society, (k) the theory of
selfishness, ( l) the relation between needs and cultural patterns, ( m) the relation between this
theory and Alport's theory of functional autonomy. These as well as certain other less
questions must be considered as motivation theory attempts to become definitive.