Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Els Kenney
Jan 19, 2018 · 3 min read

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory suggests that as individuals, we need to satisfy certain needs in order to reach self actualisation. The theory is best visualised as a pyramid or a ladder, in which you need to ‘climb’ to achieve the more complex needs. At the bottom are your fundamental, basic needs; breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis and excretion, and at the top are self-actualisation needs such as morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of facts.

In relation to the media industry, the audience will respond to texts, ideas and products, in relation to their needs and current hierarchy, and this helps to decipher a primary target audience. A specific demographic may consume specific media texts, in relation to their needs, whereas other individuals will consume the media differently, according to Maslow’s theory.

I would argue that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs isn’t always achieved in the order of the pyramid/ladder, as suggested, but instead the needs will often overlap depending on the individual’s circumstances. For example, problem solving, which falls under transcendence needs and self — actualisation, should surely go hand in hand with survival and security, falling under safety needs. Therefore I’d link the top, and second to bottom sectors of the pyramid, and claim that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs should be applied flexibly.


Physiological Needs

Breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis and excretion.

This is the bottom sector of the pyramid, which includes the basic human needs of survival. Humankind craves these needs in relation to fear of death, and therefore, the desire to live. These needs must be fulfilled before we’re able to concentrate on higher, more complex needs.

Safety Needs

Security of: body, employment, recourses, morality, the family, health and property.

Once the physiological needs have been met, we can focus on aspects of security in our lives, such as an income and a home, a stable source of food, and a basic sense of morality, which allows us to distinguish right from wrong. The absence of security could result in trauma, paranoia and distress.

In relation to media texts, we can consume certain media to reinforce our own safety needs, for example, a documentary about managing money may help the consumer to maintain their financial security, or a documentary about the homeless may juxtapose and reinforce the idea of safety, and how the consumer is safe in having a roof over their head in comparison to the subject of the media text.

Love and Belonging Needs

Friendships, family and sexual intimacy.

From childhood, we need to feel accepted and loved within a range of communities, such as family, friends, and any sexual relations. These needs reinforce another type of safety; without fulfilled love and belonging needs, we may feel neglect, isolation and loneliness, leading to depression and anxiety.

Certain people may consume media texts to find their social group, and with it, a sense of belonging and love. For example, a documentary about drug addicts in recovery may help a recovering addict consumer to feel accepted, and less alone in their scenario.

Esteem Needs

Self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others and respect by others.

This is our human need to be valued by others, as well as valued by ourselves. We reach this stage of hierarchy when we respect ourselves, and feel confident in our achievements, wellbeing and status. A lack of esteem may lea to depression, stifling the individuals ability to increase their self esteem any further. Respect by others is ranked below self esteem and self respect in this bracket, as self esteem deals with matters and needs closer to self actualisation and transcendence.

Self Actualisation Needs

Morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice and acceptance of facts.

The highest need of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states includes self actualisation, therefore addressing the individual’s full potential, and the individual striving to be the best they can be. The individual will also strive to help others achieve their full potential, passing on their knowledge and transcendence. All other needs, such as physiological, safety, love and esteem needs, must be fulfilled before being able to reach self actualisation.

Els Kenney

Written by

A student, photographer and graphic designer with a passion for animals, environmental sustainability and plant based food.

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