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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Case Study


According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization is the peak of experience when a person reaches understanding and harmony with his/herself and the surrounding people. It means that self-actualized people are usually reality-oriented – they can distinguish between real thing and the fraudulent ones (Montana and Charnov 240).

They are also problem-centered which means that they realize the existing problems and try to find possible solutions. Most importantly, they can easily establish the connection the external environment and feel comfortable when staying along.

All these attributes are applicable to Roh Moo-Hyun, the former South Korean presidents who died because of head injuries (CNN n. p.). The president was suspected of committed suicide, which implies that some of his hierarchy needs were far from fulfillment.

An in-depth consideration of the case proves the fact that Roh was not in harmonic relations with the surrounding people. He stated that he lost his face and he was afraid of disappointing people. This means he was not confident enough in himself; the president was not a fully self-actualized person. Moreover, the absence of belonging, confidence, and security is the major contributing facto to suicide.

The president, therefore, was deprived of feeling to be appreciated and accepted by others. The accusations of bribery made Roh feel ignored because he did not feel recognition and return for his actions and deed. Therefore, the top ladder of hierarch was unavailable for him because the individuals fail to acquire a sense of personal achievement, satisfaction, and growth.

Judging from the above-presented considerations as well as from the saying in the notes made before his death, Roh Moo-Hyun was at the bottom of psychological needs. Though Maslow’s model is a limited, it places Ron at the third level of accomplishment, which means that he has not reached self-esteem needs and self-actualization.

However, it should also be admitted that some of the previously three established layers are not reached to a full extent either which especially concerns motivation and experience. These conditions are crucial for working effectively (Montana and Charnov 240). Specifically, the concept of belonging and love is also closely associated with work motivation and has much in common with interpersonal satisfactions.

Due to the fact that the lowest layers are more perceived as discouraging factors, individual’s attachment to these behavioral patterns create no ground for goal-oriented behavior.

While evaluating the case in more detail, it can be stated that Moo-Hyun was significantly embarrassed by the convictions. This was especially seen in his saying, “nothing is left in my life but to be a burden to others”. He did not feel any support and encouragement he need badly.

In contrast to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Lasswell’s value categories imply that “psychological pain of being preoccupied with deprivations concerning one value would provoke a shift to preoccupations with other values” (Ascher and Hirschfelder-Ascher 26). As a result, if a person encounters a specific psychological problem, it is often difficult to understand the veritable source of the problem.

Before considering the disparities and similarities between two existing models, it should be noted that Lasswell’s conception is more applied to politicians who, according to the theorist’s study, have a strong feeling of insecurity and damaged self-esteem that is compensated, or “sublimated” by their desire to acquire power contributing to social development and public life. In this respect, the presidents’ influential position failed to contribute to his security and, as a result, the lack of security is substituted by a distress and self-hating.

While comparing these arguments with Maslow’s concepts, it should be stated that Maslow’s focus on the pyramid of needs where one need should be satisfied before moving on to another one. Lasswell’s argument is more concerned with shifting needs where values can be interchangeable and are presented in the form of matrix.

This means that it is not necessarily to acquire security, for example, for achieving self-esteem (Ascher and Hirschfelder-Ascher 27). Referring to the case under consideration, one might assume that Roh dissatisfaction with life could be due to a number of reasons that were disguised by his fear of being despised by people. Therefore, accusations of bribery might not be the actual reason for committing suicide.

In addition, displacement of value categories can be recognized because it explains the shifts in instincts. Pursuing particular values that are unacceptable to a person can lead to self-disgust, depression, and other emotional displays (Ascher and Hirschfelder-Ascher 27). These switches, or sublimations, are often explained by a transformation of less appropriate impulses into more relevant one.

Lasswell’s value category also explains the shifts in the president behavior and his inclination to self-hating. This can happen when one identification is displayed to another, alternative of identification. For instance, the ignorance of self-hatred can be considered a reason for rejecting leading to a distress, just like it happened to Mr. Moo-Hyun.

Despite the existing differences between two theoretical frameworks, there are certain similarities that must be mentioned. To begin with, both theirs largely rely on Freud’s conception of sexual impulses (Montana and Charnov 240). Considering Maslow’s model, sex, along with food, shelter, and water, is considered the basic physiological need of the individuals.

However, unlike Freud that considers sexual desires and impulses as the leading one in human life, Maslow just perceives this as one of physiological needs for an individual to feel comfortable (Montana and Charnov 240).

Similarly to Maslow, Lasswell’s value categories are also linked to sexual impulses being the triggers and original motivators. Sexual nature of identified values can contribute to shifting from one moral value to another.

Another similarity between two models lies in enumeration of needs a person should satisfy on the way to become as full-fledged personality. Hence, according to Maslow’s theory, a person has physiological, social, and psychological sets of need to be accomplished. Lasswell also mentions these three types of needs a person should satisfy, but they are not prioritized as it is provided by Maslow.

In conclusion, though Maslow’s hierarchy of need has a number of problems and misconceptions in terms of motivation and experience, it explains why the president of South Korea committed suicide. His needs are posited in the middle of the hierarchy before the self-esteem needs, which is typical of politicians who often fail to acquire this quality.

Impossibility to receive support and fear to lose trust and sense of belonging made him to give motivation. Such a situation was the contributing factor for suicide. In addition, the accusation of bribery served as the reason for losing feelings of confidence and security, which are the most crucial for people dealing with politics.

Works Cited

Ascher, William and Barbara Hirschfelder-Ascher. Revitalizing Political Psychology: the Legacy of Harold D. Lasswell. NY: Routeledge, 2005. Print.

CNN, Former S. Korean President Roh Commits Suicide. May 2009. Web.

Montana, Patrick J., and Bruce H. Charnov. Management. US: Barron’s Educational Series, 2008. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Case Study." July 6, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/maslows-hierarchy-of-needs-case-study-essay/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Case Study'. 6 July.

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