We explain what basic needs are and how they are classified. Also, what are its characteristics and what is Maslow's Pyramid.

What are the Basic Human Needs?

It is called basic needs or fundamental human needs to the set of indispensable minimum requirements , of diverse nature, that human beings require for our subsistence.

Although it is often thought that human needs are infinite, and there are social sciences dedicated to understanding them and thinking about how to satisfy them (such as economics ), it is also possible to distinguish between those whose absence represents a major, perhaps insurmountable, impediment in the maintenance of the life human.

Basic needs are almost always the same throughout the history of mankind , but the ways of satisfying them, the methods of their organization and the processes that attend to them have varied enormously over the centuries.

Characteristics of basic human needs :

1. Human needs

Human needs

Human needs are understood to be all those intrinsic requirements of the species, based on our biology , on our minimum conditions of dignified subsistence both in tangible and intangible aspects.

According to some theorists such as Manfred Max-Neef, these can be classified as:

  • Subsistence. The food we require to keep our bodies alive.
  • Protection.  A home to live in and not be at the mercy of the elements, as well as medical care and life protection resources.
  • Affected. A family context in which to grow and that gives us love .
  • Understanding. The possibility of  someone who understands our needs and ailments, and who is in solidarity with us. 
  • Participation. The opportunity to join society and be part of it.
  • Leisure.  Free time for rest and recreation. 
  • Creation.  Exercise artistic or craft expression activities.
  • Identity. Possess an identity, a proper name, a sense of community belonging.
  • Liberty.  Being masters of our destiny and making our own decisions.

2. Satisfaction

In principle, needs must be satisfied through different types of social processes and consumer goods (material or immaterial) that the same society generates.

Life in society is supposed to exist to generate the networks and interrelationships that allow us to help each other to satisfy our different needs.

The cycle of satisfaction of needs is as follows:

  • Need. The lack or deprivation of something.
  • Impulse. The will to satisfy this need.
  • Actions. Specific behaviors motivated by impulse.
  • Satisfaction. Decreased drive and original need

3. Types of human needs

Types of human needs

Human needs can be classified into:

  • Biological needs. Those without which human life could not be sustained, or would be put at risk, such as food , health, work (to earn a living), etc.
  • Secondary needs. Those of a social order, without which it would be impossible to fully develop in the social, personal or human spheres, such as identity , political participation or freedom .
  • Sumptuary needs. Those also called luxuries, whose consumption is considered optional, additional or superfluous, such as travel, possessions, etc.

4. Types of satisfiers

Types of satisfiers

Max-Reef also distinguishes between several types of satisfiers:

  • Synergistic. They satisfy different needs at the same time, or they satisfy one and stimulate another.
  • Singular. They satisfy a specific need, without taking into account any other.
  • Inhibitors They excessively satisfy (over-satisfaction) one need, while at the same time impede the satisfaction of others.
  • Pseudo-satisfiers. They provide a false or incomplete satisfaction of a need, usually accompanied by propaganda and other persuasive means.
  • Rapists They are applied to satisfy a specific need, but they destroy the possibility of satisfying it quickly and in the process make it impossible to satisfy other needs due to the pernicious side effects.

5. Quality of life

Quality of life is called the level of satisfaction of human needs that a community , social class or an individual present.

For example, communities that can meet only their basic needs have a much lower standard of living than communities that can meet their lavish or luxurious needs.

6. Accustoming

Another characteristic of human needs is that they tend to be fixed, that is, to become a habit within the framework of their satisfaction . That is why it is very difficult to substitute one satisfaction method for another, since they become customary.

7. Substitution

Many human needs are substitutable, that is, they can be satisfied in different ways , and in fact new needs tend to replace old ones.

This does not happen with basic needs, however: in the face of hunger all other needs lose importance, since biological needs have an urgent character that cannot be postponed .

8. Variable intensity

Needs vary in intensity according to their urgency , which is determined by personal and environmental conditions, for example weather seasons, socioeconomic periods, etc.

9. Needs and politics

Needs and politics

The fundamental needs also vary according to whether they concern an individual or a set of individuals or even a social class.

The sum of the individual needs of the people constitutes the collective needs that, in principle, should set the political priorities of the nation.

10. Maslow's Pyramid

Abraham Maslow in his 1943 work  A Theory of Human Motivation , established a pyramidal model to understand human needs, based on a hierarchy principle that stratifies needs as follows:

    • Physiological needs. Located at the base of the pyramid, they are based on the primary needs of the species: respiration , food , reproduction , etc.
    • Security needs. Next step, they entail social protection (physical, social, employment, legal security).
    • Membership needs. Social relationships and intimacy: love, friendship, sexual intimacy.
    • Recognition needs. Psychological and individual needs such as personal self-realization, trust, respect , success.
    • Need for self-realization. At the top of the pyramid, it is about moral, spiritual, creative or existential needs.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring reliable sources and recommendations from experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.


MA student of the TransAtlantic Masters program at UNC-Chapel Hill. Political Science with a focus on European Studies. Expressed ideas are open to revision. He not only covers Technical articles but also has skills in the fields of SEO, graphics, web development and coding. .

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