What Are Some Advantages and Disadvantages of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

One advantage of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is its perceptive insight into human nature, a disadvantage is that the hierarchy fails to account for cultural or social differences between individuals. Abraham Maslow first introduced the theory in his paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation.”

In 1943, Maslow developed his hierarchy of needs. He claimed that people will not be motivated by their higher-order needs, such as the need for self-actualization, until the lower-order needs, such as need for food and shelter, have been met.

A basic advantage of Maslow’s need theory is how well it serves to interpret human behavior and motivation. It has relevance in modern-day applications, especially in the world of business. Managers, for example, can benefit from understanding their employees’ basic human needs of friendship, job security, and recognition for a task well done. Creating an environment which meets these needs will result in self-actualized team members who operate at their full potential for the business.

One widely criticized disadvantage of the needs theory, however, is that in creating his hierarchy, Maslow studied only a narrow segment of the human population. The terms in the hierarchy, such as “self-esteem” and “security,” have wildly different definitions in cultures around the globe. Therefore, it is hard for researchers to measure these needs or to generalize them across all human populations.

Besides cultural differences, the hierarchy also fails to take into account individual differences. There is no evidence indicating every human being experiences the needs in the order Maslow specified. In fact, there is little empirical evidence that supports the theory at all.