Maslow’s Extended Pyramid

Named after researching psychologist Abraham Maslow, this model has been one of the great successes in establishing certain consumer categories; subsequently, based on findings and segmentations, VALS I and VALS II consumer classification systems have been developed.

The model assumes that each individual has a series of levels of fundamental needs, gradually placed in ascending order starting from the bottom, so that, if the inferior levels are met, the foundation is laid to meet the higher-level needs.

(keep reading ↓)

Graphic by Andreea Calarasu Copyright (C) Andreea Calarasu, 2015

Graphic by Andreea Călărașu. Copyright (C) Andreea Călărașu, 2015

Maslow has initially structured a 5-step pyramid, which is still known nowadays to students of socio-human sciences. There is however also the 1974 version, which proposes two more levels: cognition and aestheticism. The two levels started from Maslow’s adjacent remarks regarding the fact that motivation should also include them. After his death, the researchers who relied on his work added the two steps as pyramid levels and completed the pyramid’s peak with the level of transcendence, which reminds both of Robbins’ pyramid and Dilts’ pyramid. The 8-level pyramid is a more complex development of the reality of psychic structures. Similarly, starting from Jung’s 4-category model, Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers developed a more complex model of personality (MBTI) with 16 categories, it is time we used what the socio-human sciences reported as progress and not to become stuck in the old models for the sake of those who lived a century ago.

As the diagram beautifully conceived by the designer Andreea Calarasu shows, the 8 levels are the following, as seen bottom-up:

Physiological needs, i.e. those necessities that each of us has inherently and constantly, due to human nature, which are specific to the preservation or continuation of existence. The needs to eat, drink, breathe, sleep, wash, have sex, etc. are found in a primary and priority way in all societies and cultures, while these are predominant in Third World countries, for example.

Examples of services or products meant for this category of needs: housing, food, air conditioners, beds, chairs, heating stations, stoves, showers, sinks, contraceptives, and clothing.

Security/safety/certainty needs, which are circumscribed to social norms and civilization, to have available a set of resources needed to continue the activity as to the role that an individual functionally plays within the society.

These needs include the security that comes from the financial/material situation, the security of an environment that preserves health, and prevents physical illness or harm, the security provided by the family, property, resources of several types, and morality as a psychosocial component of the environment that the individual belongs to. Once the physiological needs are provided, the security needs are the first ones that individuals will turn their attention to, according to this pattern. Examples of services or products intended for this category of needs: insurance, loans, weapons, dating services, protection, and security services.

Socialization, community affiliation, communication needs, psychological closeness to other peers, to one’s family for the purpose of emotional and sexual intimacy, affection needs. In this respect, an interesting sociological phenomenon correlated with the economic development of the countries, with a focus on the satisfaction of the first two levels, is depression and suicide rate. At the level of different societies and cultures, it has been found, for example, a different spread of this problem, and it has been found that in those countries/cultures, in which social activity is suppressed, the sociological phenomenon of depression is frequent. Examples of services or products appealing to this category of needs: public establishments, social / networking events, virtual communities, forums.

Needs related to self-esteem, self-image, self-respect, trust, respect, either unconditional or built and/or acknowledged/conferred by others based on the achievements that are accepted, valued, socially appreciated in the environment in which the individual operates. Researches show that high self-esteem leads to happiness, and self-acceptance leads to the stability of self-esteem. Examples of services or products appealing to this type of need: psychological counseling, personalized clothing, accessories, media shows/productions focusing on comforting the ego of certain audiences.

Cognitive needs pertaining to the need to understand the world around us, to create a sense and a structure of experience. People need education either from the family, from an institution, or from self-education. People need to explore, to know, to find out. Examples of services or products appealing to this category of needs: pre-university public education, university, and postgraduate studies, books, training sessions, courses, seminars, workshops, audiobooks, documentaries.

Aesthetic needs, which pertain to having physical beauty around, pleasantly arranged and decorated rooms, appealing landscapes, and balanced looks. People need to see the beauty around them because it creates a pleasant comfortable state and the motivation to work. Often, when they cannot achieve certain self-esteem needs, they first seek to obtain aesthetic needs, replacing their self-esteem or even transcendence needs. Examples of services or products appealing to this category of needs: beauty services and products, interior and exterior design, gardening, wall painting, wood flooring, wall, and floor tiling.

Needs of self-development, growth, fulfillment, happiness, transgression, psychological evolution, attaining certain standards /objectives that would ensure the differentiation, uniqueness, and superiority of the individual with respect to others. Examples of services or products appealing to this category of needs: coaching, mentoring, psychological counseling, creation camps, personal development programs.

Transcendence needs, which meet the contribution needs from the tip of Robbins’ pyramid and the mission needs from the tip of Dilts’ pyramid. People need to contribute to the success of others, to the development of a community based on common interests. People feel the need to leave something behind by employing their work, their knowledge, or their money. Examples of services or products appealing to this category of needs: charity management funds, micro-credit services (such as, which facilitates entrepreneurial loans for people in poor countries), community service programs, volunteering programs.

Initially, the theory said that people first meet their basic needs and then the others, but practice shows that, for different people, in different contexts, certain superior needs (from the tip of the pyramid) may be more important than certain lower needs (from the base of the pyramid).

Thus, one can sacrifice one’s life to save another (security needs sacrificed for transcendence needs), someone may prefer to endure an unsafe transit to study (the example of Israeli students who risk their lives every time they go to university to sit for exams), someone can sacrifice their family when their reputation is affected by a domestic problem (social needs abandoned in favor of status needs). Consequently, the initial notion of hierarchy used by Maslow is no longer valid nowadays. The order in which people meet these needs doesn’t even depend on the cultural factor but on the preferences and values of each individual. However, at the level of a civilization or culture, determinant lines can be seen.

PS: Watch this video that elaborates on Maslow’s pyramid in terms of details/levels.


Marcus Victor Grant

Text Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant 2007-present Translation by Cristiana Brezeanu of the article “Piramida lui Maslow previously published in Romanian on the 10th of February 2012 on Discerne. This article has been considered the 5th best article in quality from all the articles written and published by me in 2019. Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant, all rights reserved. Originally written in 2007.

Graphic copyright © Andreea Călărașu, 2015-present.

The materials on this blog are subject to this disclaimer.


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