Aspects of Play: Abraham Maslow

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist that wanted to understand what motivates people in everyday life, to do what they do. He thus constructed a Hierarchy of Needs in correlation to his research and findings and placed them in a 5 stage hierarchical pyramid, that was comprised of the following levels; Physiological, Safety, Love, Esteem and Self-actualization.

  • Physiological Needs – Covers the basic human necessities of what we need in everyday life. From; air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex and sleep. He also states that in order to climb up the hierarchy of needs, you must first attain and secure the needs of the bottom tiers before you can move up the pyramid
  • Safety Needs – Protection from the elements in the way of an enforced shelter, security for said shelter, order, law, limits, stability and freedom from fear
  • Social Needs – Belongingness, affection and love
  • Esteem Needs – Achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others.
  • Self-Actualization – Realising personal potential, self-fulfilment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences

The basic premise behind the pyramid is that you must attain everything below before you can climb and reach self-actualization. That being something akin to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Theory of Flow and how when flow is achieved, it is somewhat like a peak experience, in which you find enlightenment but flow could be considered a short-term not permanent version of said premise.

Here’s someone who can probably explain everything better then I can.


Mcleod, S. 2007. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 15 Jan 2014].


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