Human Needs – Concept, types, examples and pyramid

We explain what human needs are, how they are classified and various examples. Also, what is Maslow’s Pyramid.

human needs
Human needs are much more than basic needs.

What are human needs?

In economics, human needs are understood as the union between a sensation of specific lack and the desire to satisfy it, that is, as a deficiency that we actively wish to remedy.

According to the typical approach to economics, these needs they are infinite and limitless, that is, they never cease to reproduce, while the resources necessary for your satisfaction are limited and finite, that is, there is a specific number of them. Thus, economics is the science that studies this impossible relationship and the methods to try to solve it.

Human needs are found wherever there is a human being, regardless of whether he is alone or in a group, although in the latter case, obviously, the proportions increase. Its study and organization have also been the object of studies by economics, psychology and many other disciplines, from which a classification can be attempted:

According to its importance, two types of human needs can be distinguished:

  • Primary or biological, which determine the physiological subsistence of the individual and their immediate health, such as eating, sleeping, drinking water, sheltering from the weather elements, etc.
  • Fundamental or social, those that are also elementary for the correct or complete development of a healthy individual, but that are not determined by human biology, but by their form of socialization, such as affection, security, identity, a decent home, etc. .
  • Secondary or supplementary, when it is not a question of vital or basic needs, but of those added once the first two are satisfied, and that therefore vary from one era to another and from one human group to another, such as wealth, participation politics, legal representation, recreation, etc.

According to its social character, that is, where they come from, they can be classified into:

  • Individual needs, when they take into consideration only the individual, that is, a specific one, even if this contradicts the needs of the group to which they belong.
  • Collective needs, when they take into consideration the totality of a human collectivity, community or society, even if this contradicts the individual needs of any of its members.

According to its economic importance They can be classified into:

  • Financial needs, whose satisfaction requires a productive effort on the part of the entire society or at least on the part of the individual, that is, of economic activities. For example, to satisfy our desire to feed ourselves, it is necessary to be able to acquire food that has been previously prepared, for which it was necessary to have inputs that were previously collected, produced or obtained.
  • Non-economic needs, whose satisfaction does not imply any productive mechanism, but can be satisfied in other ways. For example, to breathe we only need air, and to obtain affection, we only need a loved one. In neither case does the human productive chain appear.

Maslow’s Pyramid

One of the great scholars of human needs was Abraham Maslow (1908-1970). This American psychologist laid out his approach to human motivations in his 1943 book “A Theory of Human Motivation”, known today as the “Maslow’s Pyramid.”

Through your pyramid, sought a way to represent human needs from a hierarchical principle. That is, it placed the most basic (and fundamental) at the foot of the pyramid, and the most elaborate (and therefore optional) at the top.

Logically, this means that to access those above, all those below must first be met, and that the higher a need is found in the pyramid, the further it is from the primary needs of the human being.

Maslow’s pyramid is thus made up of five different levels, which we list from the most basic and lowest, to the most complex and elevated:

  • Physiological or primary needs. Those that survival itself dictates and that the individual must simply satisfy in order to continue to exist. Nothing precedes them, therefore, and they are exemplified by the need to breathe, to eat, to sleep, to protect the environment (from cold or heat), etc.
  • Safety and security needs. Once the primary needs have been satisfied, the second step of the pyramid consists of needs related to the defense and security of the individual, that is, to their protection from harm and helplessness. Examples of these are: physical and sanitary security (protection from diseases), home ownership, etc.
  • Social or affiliation needs. The third rung of the pyramid already points to the inclusion of the individual in a human community, and they come from our gregarious, tribal nature. Examples are the need for relationships (friendly, loving, affective) or the need for social acceptance.
  • Esteem or recognition needs. Once the individual is part of a group in which they have social relationships and enjoy their own and group identity, their esteem needs appear, which Maslow sub-classified into two categories:
    • High esteem, linked to self-love and feelings of confidence, independence, self-esteem and freedom.
    • Low esteem, linked to respect for others, the need for attention, recognition of others and everything related to social status.
  • Self-actualization or self-needs. The top of Maslow’s pyramid is reserved for the most abstract and complex psychological needs of the human being, which have to do with the self-evaluation of one’s life based on a purpose, a notion of happiness or success, whether with oneself or with the whole of humanity.