Maslow (1954) has developed a humanistic approach to motivation, which is very popular due to its theoretical and practical value. His humanistic model is known as the “Theory of self-actualization”.

Maslow attempted to portray a total picture of human behaviour. His approach is unique. He explained human motives or needs by arranging them in a hierarchy. Going from the highest need of self-actualization down, the motives in the hierarchy are:

  • Need for self-actualization.
  • Esteem needs: Such as the needs for prestige, success and self-respect.
  • Belongingness and love needs: Such as needs for affection, affiliation, and identification.
  • Safety needs: such as needs for security, stability and order.
  • Physiological needs: such as hunger, thirst and sex.

Maslow’s arrangement was made in the order of potency and priority of unsatisfied human needs. The hierarchy has different levels arranged in ascending order. A person’s stand in this hierarchy determined by either deficiency-oriented or growth-oriented behaviour (D Behaviour or G-Behaviour).

An individual who is deficiency-oriented is one whose basic needs ha not yet been satisfied and who is oriented towards achieving satisfaction eliminating deficiency. The individual who is growth-oriented is the person whose basic needs have been satisfied and who is motivated towards se actualization.


The most basic aspects of human motivation are physiological needs which remain in the first level in the ladder of motives. These are essential our survival. Once these needs are satisfied, the second level needs emerge and gain importance. At the highest level is the desire to utilize one’s personal capacities, to develop one’s potentialities to the fullest and to engage activities for which one is well-suited. This level is called “self-actualization”.

Maslow explains that every individual does not ascend this hierarchy step- -step; some exceptions may be there. But it is true that the basic needs like hunger and thirst cease to be powerful motivators of behaviour once they have en satisfied to a certain degree. This approach reveals that every category need has a limited capacity to motivate behaviour. Beyond this point of limitation, it is necessary to involve a higher category of need to motivate action.

Maslow’s humanistic approach has been criticized for being over-optimistic out mankind in general. He has been accused of looking at only the healthy side of man and totally ignoring the unhealthy side. However, this model insisted that the human being is not a multi-system but a single entity consisting many part functions. Truly speaking, this approach attempted to view “man a man and not as an animal or machine”-thus restoring man to himself.