Maslow’s Need Theory of Motive

motive, needs

 An important aspect of fictional character is giving them motive. People have needs. Thankfully we can look to the world of psychology for help in that department. Need theories can be categorizes as “content theories” of motivation. They assume a person has baggage of motives which await gratification and there is an attempt to explain motivation in terms of arouses and energizes behaviour.  Maslow (1954) identified a hierarchy of needs from primitive to higher forms of life.


“Man is a wanting animal that rarely reaches a state of complete satisfaction except for a short amount of time. ” As one desire is satisfied, another pops up.

Physiological needs

There are automatic responses to imbalances in the human body, to e.g. ensure blood sugar levels stay within acceptable margins thus motivating us to eat and drink.

Safety needs

This can include physical security, emotional security, job security, modest routine in life and desires for fair treatment and justice.

Affiliation needs

These include social contacts, belonging to groups, friendships, love.

Esteem needs

Esteem needs can be divided in two categories, namely self-esteem and esteem from others. Self esteem includes the need for self-respect and self-confidence. Self esteem from others include recognition from others and desires for power.

Self-actualisation needs

Implies self-fulfilment after accomplishment of challenges.

Criticism on this model from studies investigating this model
  • People sometimes seek satisfaction for higher needs before the lower needs are adequately met.
  • The need for self-actualisation remained constant regardless of how satisfied people felt about it while normally satisfied needs are seen as less important. Self-actualisation lost its importance only if lower level needs were deprived.
  • There are many other examples of needs, such as having nice things.
  • Not all behaviour is motivated through acquiring things that lack, e.g. the need to express oneself.

Source: McKenna, E. F. (2006). Motivation and Job Design. In: Business Psychology and Organisational Behaviour (pp. Chapter 4: 89-132). Hove (UK): Psychology Press.