Dr. Peters developed this original model of Maslow’s theory of human motivation. The model you may be familiar with, a stacked triangle depicting Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, was not developed by Maslow and does not, in our opinion, adequately capture Maslow’s full theory of human need fulfillment. Dr. Peters’ model is based on Maslow’s original 1943 research article and an expansion of his theory based on his subsequent work.

Our unconscious needs lie at the center of the model. If you have taken the HS Emotion Wheel MiniCert, you know that much of our knowledge about ourselves, including our needs, is unconscious (we can use our emotions to create a bridge between our conscious and unconscious awareness). As we get what Maslow calls our “prepotent” needs met, “higher” unconscious needs emerge into our consciousness. Once we become aware of those needs, we take action to get them met. For example, if we do not have our physiological needs adequately met, including nourishment, air, sleep, and others, we are unlikely to even be aware that we have safety needs.


Need fulfillment is motivated by our cognitive drive for knowledge and understanding of ourselves and the world (illustrated by the circle around unconscious needs), which is enabled by an environment in which we can freely express ourselves (the pink ring around the model).


Our need fulfillment pattern is constantly shifting in response to our internal and external environment, as well as any increase in our awareness of unconscious needs. Maslow hypothesized in 1943 that most well-functioning people do not have any of their needs fully met at any one point in time. Instead, we experience a range ever-shifting percentages of need fulfillment. On average over time, a physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy person might have 85% of their physiological needs met and just 10% of their self-transcendence needs met. Much later, after Maslow published his theory, he further hypothesized that after self-actualization (reaching our full potential in a skill or role), we become interested in self-transcendence, reaching beyond the boundaries of the self for a cause or entity greater than ourselves.


Visit the Human Systems Emotion Wheels & Needs Wheels page to see our HS Needs Wheels, a tool that can help you or your clients identify needs.


Learn about the HS Needs Wheel MiniCert, a 90-minute session on the research behind the HS Needs Wheel, including Maslow’s theory, and best practices for using the Needs Wheel with clients.

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