Maslow’s Extended Pyramid

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

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 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 that motivation should 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, reminding both of Robbins’ and Dilts’ pyramids. 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 is specific to the preservation or continuation of existence. The needs to eat, drink, breathe, sleep, wash, have sex, etc., are primary and priority 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: are housing, food, air conditioners, beds, chairs, heating stations, stoves, showers, sinks, contraceptives, and clothing.

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

These needs include the security that comes from the financial/material situation, the protection 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 for this category of needs: are insurance, loans, weapons, dating services, protection, and security services.

Socialization, community affiliation, communication needs, psychological closeness to other peers, one’s family for emotional and sexual intimacy, and 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 rates. At the level of different societies and cultures, it has been found, for example, a further spread of this problem. In those countries/cultures where social activity is suppressed, the sociological phenomenon of depression is frequent. Examples of services or products appealing to this category of needs: are public establishments, social / networking events, virtual communities, and forums.

Needs related to self-esteem, self-image, self-respect, trust, and respect, either unconditional or built and/or acknowledged/conferred by others based on the achievements that are accepted, valued, and 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: are psychological counseling, personalized clothing, accessories, and media shows/productions focusing on comforting the ego of specific audiences.

Cognitive needs pertain to the need to understand the world around us and 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: are pre-university public education, university, and postgraduate studies, books, training sessions, courses, seminars, workshops, audiobooks, and documentaries.

Aesthetic needs pertain to physical beauty, 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. In addition, when they cannot achieve specific self-esteem, they often seek aesthetic needs, replacing their self-esteem or even transcendence needs. Examples of services or products appealing to this category of needs: are beauty services and products, interior and exterior design, gardening, wall painting, wood flooring, and wall and floor tiling.

Needs of self-development, growth, fulfillment, happiness, transgression, psychological evolution, and attaining specific standards /objectives would ensure the individual’s differentiation, uniqueness, and superiority concerning others. Examples of services or products appealing to this category of needs: are coaching, mentoring, psychological counseling, creation camps, and 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 and to the development of a community based on common interests. People need to leave something behind by employing their work, knowledge, or money. Examples of services or products appealing to this category of needs: are charity management funds, micro-credit services (such as, which facilitates entrepreneurial loans for people in poor countries), community service programs, and volunteering programs.

Initially, the theory said that people first meet their basic needs and then the others. Still, practice shows that, for different people, in different contexts, specific superior needs (from the tip of the pyramid) may be more critical than confident 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, Maslow’s initial notion of hierarchy 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, determinant lines can be seen at the level of a civilization or culture.

PS: Watch this video elaborating on Maslow’s pyramid regarding 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 in quality of all the articles I wrote and published in 2019. Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant, all rights reserved. Initially written in 2007.

Graphic copyright © Andreea Călărașu, 2015-present.

The materials on this blog are subject to this disclaimer.


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