Abraham H Maslow was a psychologist who developed a theory that sought to explain human behaviour in terms of basic needs for survival and growth. (www.enotes.com. 2002). This paper will define Maslow’s theory (a ‘hierarchy of needs’) and explain how differences in priorities influence and inform upon consumer behaviour.
Maslow developed his ‘hierarchy of needs’ in an attempt to describe patterns of human behaviour, and to try to understand the processes behind the actions of consumers. In essence, his theory centres on the idea of ‘motivation’, which he sees as a driving force in a person’s movement from one level of need priorities to the next.
The above diagram, though not of Maslow’s own design, suggests the hierarchy of needs starts at the bottom with ‘physiological needs’, and continues up the pyramid, finishing with self-actualisation. Maslow’s theory identifies that there are general types of needs also described as basic needs they are the simple things in life that we must have to survive, such things as food, water, shelter and good health. These are known as your physiological needs. Safety needs represent the ability to feel safe and be away from danger, not being in a dangerous relationship or living free from abuse. Social needs are the ability to be loved and feel a sense of belonging in a society. Esteem needs refer to the individual having a good self-esteem and being in a health state of mind. These four categories of needs are known as ‘deficiency needs’, and Maslow suggests as long as we are ‘motivated’ to satisfy these needs, we are moving towards growth, and leading to self-actualisation. (mason.gmu.edu. 2004). At the top of the diagram is self-actualisation, which Maslow says is the point where an individual realises their full potential. In other words, where someone may fulfill their highest aspiration or goal. (The Psychology of Abraham Maslow. New York: Grossman Publishers, 1970.)
When looking at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid, it is important to understand that at any point in time you can temporarily regress back to any level within the hierarchy no matter what qualification or status you are. (B.Poston. An Exercise in Person Exploration: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). If a lower level set of needs is no longer being met, the individual will temporarily re-prioritise those needs by focusing their attention on the unfulfilled needs, but will not permanently regress to the lower level.(The Psychology of Abraham Maslow. New York: Grossman Publishers, 1970.) It leaves the individual no option but to look for substitutes to satisfy there reprioritised needs. This can happen due to unforeseen circumstances such as an economic downturn resulting in a loss of employment. Therefore the affected individual’s attitude towards their current situation will likely contribute towards a shift in their need priorities.
There are aspects to this theory that go unnoticed. For instance,...