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A Theory of Human Motivation

A. H. Maslow (1943)

Originally Published in Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.

Posted August 2000


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

with the

dynamicism of Freud (4) and Adler (1). This fusion or synthesis may arbitrarily be called


'general-dynamic' theory.

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

lack of

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




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

make it

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

of the

blood stream. Cannon (2) has described this process for (1) the water content of the

blood, (2)

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

appetite or

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

degree of

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

are to

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

is to

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

fashion, it

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

consciousness is

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,

habits, all

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

desire to

acquire an automobile, the interest in American history, the desire for a new pair of

shoes are,

in the extreme case, forgotten or become of sec-[p.374]ondary importance. For the man

who is

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

food and

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

drive and

behavior, with the one unqualified aim of relief.

Another peculiar characteristic of the human organism when it is dominated by a certain

need is

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

common. In

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

bread and

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

concept as

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

exist as

active determinants or organizers of behavior. They now exist only in a potential fashion

in the

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

organized only

by unsatisfied needs. If hunger is satisfied, it becomes unimportant in the current

dynamics of

the individual.

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

who are

best equipped to tolerate deprivation of that need in the future, and that furthermore,

those who

have been de-[p. 376]prived in the past will react differently to current satisfactions than

the one

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

been said

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.

Again we

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

goal is

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

man, in

this state, if it is extreme enough and chronic enough, may be characterized as living

almost for

safety alone.

Although in this paper we are interested primarily in the needs of the adult, we can

approach an

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

reaction at

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


[1][p. 377]

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

postulated that,

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

food is

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

unsafe. This

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

because of

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

situations or

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

in our

society generally prefers a safe, orderly, predictable, organized world, which he can

count, on,

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

who are

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

situations that

adults too would consider dangerous.[2]

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

we wish

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

rather than

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

also in

part motivated by safety-seeking. Here too we may list science and philosophy in

general as

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

desire for

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

whom he

may depend, or perhaps, a Fuehrer.

The neurotic individual may be described in a slightly different way with some usefulness

as a

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

to be

called out by any stimulus that would make a child feel endangered and threatened.[3]

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

world so

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

occur. If,

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

[p. 381]

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

hunger for

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

perhaps than

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.

Sex may

be studied as a purely physiological need. Ordinarily sexual behavior is multi-

determined, that

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

involve both

giving and receiving love.[4]

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-

respect, or

self-esteem, and for the esteem of others. By firmly based self-esteem, we mean that

which is

soundly based upon real capacity, achievement and respect from others. These needs

may be

classified into two subsidiary sets. These are, first, the desire for strength, for

achievement, for

adequacy, for confidence in the face of the world, and for independence and freedom.[5]

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

there is

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

in turn

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

desire to

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

person. In

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

capacities for

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.[8] 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

preconditions for

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

satisfactions are

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

needs, then

it is clear that any danger to them, any deprivation or blocking of their free use, must

also be

indirectly threatening to the basic needs themselves. Such a statement is a partial

solution of

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

more basic

and less basic defense mechanisms, and then affirm that danger to the more basic

defenses is

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

needs only

in passing. Acquiring knowledge and systematizing the universe have been considered

as, in

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

enough. The

fact that they often are pursued even at great cost to the individual's safety is an earnest

of the

partial character of our previous discussion. In addition, the writer must admit that,

though he

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

aware of

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


and meanings.

Once these desires are accepted for discussion, we see that they too form themselves

into a

small hierarchy in which the desire to know is prepotent over the desire to understand.

All the

characteristics of a hierarchy of prepotency that we have described above, seem to hold

for this

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

'cognitive' and

'conative' needs. The desire to know and to understand are themselves conative, i.e.,

have a

striving character, and are as much personality needs as the 'basic needs' we have


discussed (19).[p. 386]


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.

It is

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

important than

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


esteem itself.

(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.

That is

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

starved for

love in the earliest months of their lives and have simply lost forever the desire and the

ability to

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

a long

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.

If they

are dominated by a higher need, this higher need will seem to be the most important of

all. It

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.

We may

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,

may be

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;

they give

up everything for the sake of a particular ideal, or value. These people may be

understood, at

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

these two

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

we may

assume that they are both operative, side by side, since they do not contradict each

other, In

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

terms of

decreasing percentages of satisfaction as we go up the hierarchy of prepotency, For

instance, if

I may assign arbitrary figures for the sake of illustration, it is as if the average citizen [p.

389] is

satisfied perhaps 85 per cent in his physiological needs, 70 per cent in his safety needs,

50 per

cent in his love needs, 40 per cent in his self-esteem needs, and 10 per cent in his self-

actualization needs.

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

go per

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

now be

expected, on a priori grounds alone, that unconscious motivations would on the whole

be rather

more important than the conscious motivations. What we have called the basic needs

are very

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

our first

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

classification of

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

behavior that

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.

Within the

sphere of motivational determinants any behavior tends to be determined by several or

all of

the basic needs simultaneously rather than by only one of them. The latter would be

more an

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

out that

it would be possible (theoretically if not practically) to analyze a single act of an

individual and

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.[9] For instance, one other im-[p. 391]portant class of determinants is


so-called 'field' determinants. Theoretically, at least, behavior may be determined

completely by

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 [10] is that there is a basic difference between expressive

behavior and

coping behavior (functional striving, purposive goal seeking). An expressive behavior

does not

try to do anything; it is simply a reflection of the personality. A stupid man behaves

stupidly, not

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

alone, the

springiness of the healthy man's walk, and the erectness of his carriage are other

examples of

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

logic or

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

no more

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

consequence of

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

(18) has

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

for an

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

has an

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

not to

exist, to have disappeared. This point should be emphasized because it has been either

overlooked or contradicted in every theory of motivation I know.[12] 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,

e. g.,

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

who is

thwarted in any of his basic needs may fairly be envisaged simply as a sick man. This is

a fair

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.

If a

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

only one

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

by the

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

itself to

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

serve as

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

is most

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.

Also it

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

be a

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.