What Are Our Basic Needs (or Wants)?

What Are Our Basic Needs (or Wants)?


Our Basic Needs (or Wants)?

So, what the heck are wants and needs anyway?  And what is the difference between them?  At some point in life, we've learned or heard about Maslow's hierarchy of needs.   (In case you need a recap, the pyramid is below).  It's the colorful pyramid outlining our basic needs (or wants).


Maslow wrote about this hierarchy in his 1943 paper, "A Theory of Human Motivation".

It states from SimplyPsychology:

Maslow (1943) stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs, and that some needs take precedence over others. Our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behaviour. Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us, and so on.

Maslow states that the foundation layer of the pyramid, physiological needs, are the physical needs for human survival such as air, water, and food.  He also categorizes clothing and shelter or protection from the elements in this layer however note that he doesn't say designer clothes or a 7 bedroom house - those are wants.  Finally, what's most important in this foundation is the need to maintain an adequate birth rate - which means we need sex!

The other levels:

Safety:  the need for personal safety, financial safety and well being.

Love/Belonging:  the need to feel belonging and acceptance from others.

Esteem:  the need to feel respected and valued by others.

Self-Actualization: the realization of ones full potential.

Children feel the Safety and Belonging levels more than others but as we grow into adults all these levels start to merge and Maslow himself says the, "hierarchies are interrelated rather than sharply separated". (Maslow, A (1954). Motivation and personality. New York, NY: Harper. ISBN 0-06-041987-3.)  Which is why it's so difficult to understand the difference between a want and a need and why in our own minds, they can get messy and affect our decision making process.

As I read through his work, I found it interesting that the first two pyramid layers are "needs" but when he gets to Love/Belonging and further up, those needs are not for things but are feelings and emotions.  I can see how Maslow's pyramid has its criticisms.

In the end, there ARE certain needs that have to be realized before we can focus on and move forward.  Wants are enhanced needs.

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