6 Types of Human Needs

As people grow physically from infant to adult, needs of humans also evolve, becoming their source of motivation. These needs of people do not develop at random, but come in a hierarchy. It is through fulfilling the hierarchy of needs that human beings grow spiritually. Often portrayed as a pyramid, this theory of human needs is best described by Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist. What do people need according to the hierarchy of needs by Maslow? Here we discuss Maslow’s pyramid of human needs.

Food is among the physiological needs of human beings.
Source: UNiesert via Wikimedia Commons


The first stage in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is, of course, the very basic needs that human beings require everyday: food, clothing and shelter. These daily needs of humans are called primary or physiological needs, and consist of the physical requirements for the human body to work properly, including air, water and sleep. To eat, have clothes on, and live somewhere are likewise fundamental needs of human beings, necessary for their survival.

These things people need constantly in order to keep living. Hence, human beings need to meet their primary needs always, no matter how much they’d previously met these basic needs, unlike the secondary set of human needs in the hierarchy of needs by Maslow.

Safety includes comfort and peace of mind.
Source: Al Jazeera English, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr


Secondary needs are the higher needs of individuals that they strongly desire when primary needs have relatively been satisfied. While primary needs are constant, human beings graduate through their secondary needs. Secondary needs consist of four human needs, each of which people transcend when satisfied. In this way people move further up the triangle of human needs.

2 Safety Needs

People yearn for the comfort of having nothing to worry about, for security. This is the second stage in Maslow’s pyramid of human needs: safety needs. Human beings need to be sure of their wellness and security. For instance, they don’t like to worry about robbers or murderers getting inside their house, or being evicted from home the next day. Neither do they like the thought of contracting deadly disease. People value good health, as well as personal and financial security.

Social needs encompass the need to belong with other people.
Source: I, Inisheer

3 Social Needs

The love needs involve giving and receiving affection.

— Abraham Maslow

The third stage in the hierarchy of human needs is social needs. Do humans need love? In fact they do. People need to love and be loved in return. They need affection. Human beings also feel the need to belong, and accordingly like to have a sense of connection and belongingness with the others, especially in their younger years. Individuals need to fit in, have interaction with, and be accepted by the people around them. The more friends they have, the better. Family, friendship and relationship are important for people to satisfy their social needs.

Honor and prestige may be part of a person’s esteem needs.

4 Esteem Needs

All people in our society 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.

— Abraham Maslow

People need to be respected and esteemed. This need for respect makes up the fourth stage of the hierarchy of needs by Maslow: esteem needs. Like the other needs of individuals, esteem needs are not sharply defined, but are interrelated with other human needs, and build a continuum with the others. As a consequence, esteem needs have two phases to it. The lower half, extending from a person’s social needs, is the need to gain respect from others. This kind of need for respect spur individuals to seek fame, honor and prestige.

There is also the higher kind of esteem needs, which calls for respect, not from other people, but from oneself — self-respect in other words. Competence, freedom and independence are manifestations of this sort of esteem needs, which indicate progression toward the next level in the hierarchy of human needs.

Self-realization to a dancer means to dance.
Source: Frode Inge Helland via Wikimedia Commons

5 Self-Realization

What a man can be, he must be.

— Abraham Maslow

Do you like to paint, make music, or write novels? Is there somebody you want to become? When people have satisfied their lower needs, they feel a strong urge to be the person they dream of becoming. They feel the need to realize themselves, to actualize their potentials, and bring out their talent and the fullness of their nature. This is the apex of the hierarchy of human needs: the need for self-realization or self-actualization. Whatever potentials a human person was born with he must actualize. Whatever an individual is born to be, he must be. Human beings need to realize themselves.

Cognitive needs consist of the need to understand.
Source: Nicky Klose via Wikimedia Commons

6 Cognitive Needs

The desire to know and to understand are themselves connotative, i.e. have a striving character, and are as much personality needs as the `basic needs’ we have already discussed.

— Abraham Maslow

While not included as a separate stage in the hierarchy of human needs, Maslow mentioned cognitive needs as another needs of human beings. Cognitive needs are none other than a person’s curiosity, his need to learn, to explore, to discover, to gain knowledge, to get a better understanding of himself, of the world around him, and his place in it.

In philosophy, cognitive needs come as an entirely separate dimension of the needs of people. There are generally two aspects of perfection that human beings find in the world: truth and good. The world is knowable, intelligible: it is truth. The world is desired, relished: it is good. Curiosity takes a person about the world in search for truths. Whereas the highest satisfaction of a person’s hunger is self-realization, the utmost satisfaction of his cognitive needs is the fullness of understanding, where and however possible.

Maslow’s Pyramid of Human Needs

Is Maslow’s Pyramid true?

Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of human needs remains a theory, and a theory is always subject to exceptions, as well as disputes. While the needs of humans that Maslow cited may in fact exist, these needs of people may not come in the order that the psychologist postulated. What humans need may not come in a definite order at all. What is certain though is, there are things people need, and the fulfillment of these human needs become a person’s source of motivation.

How high do you think you’ve come in the pyramid of human needs?

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Published April 2, 2014