Exploring the Complexities of Human Behavior & Actions

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  8
Wordcount:  1956 Words
Date:  2023-02-06

The 'why' of human behavior and therefore their actions is a difficult thing to clearly discern? Why a human being would choose to act in one way over the other i.e. act in favor of themselves or in favor of others is quite simply almost impossible to understand as human beings act both rationally and irrationally. In some instances, acting in favor of one's desires is expected and is the norm in today's capitalistic world. However, even in the face of deep capitalism, one is expected to be 'human' and have concern for others. Given that the underlying systems for determining/controlling human actions range from law to religion to self-principle, it is quite challenging to determine specifically if human beings act out of the desire for their own accomplishments or for the good of others (Bransen & Cuypers, 2016). To gauge this topic from a narrow perspective so as to gain traction for a reasonable argument, it is best to first investigate the motivators of human action.

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Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs as a Basis of Human Motivation

Psychologist Abraham Maslow came up with a theory that attempts to explain why human beings behave as they do. Maslow's hierarchy of needs (Maslow, 1954) is a motivational theory in psychology that compromises of a five-tier model, in the form of a pyramid that is divided into different hierarchies as per the tiers earlier mentioned (McLeod, 2018). Maslow argued that for one to proceed from needs in one tier/hierarchy to another (going upwards) the needs of the previous hierarchy should first have been met. The psychologist also added that once one gets to the top of the pyramid of needs, he/she does not retrogress (McLeod, 2018).

The needs that therefore form the basis of human actions, as per Maslow are divided into physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization. Based on an individual's level of needs, they may thus act in favor of either themselves or others. To further understand this paper's explanation of why human beings may act either in favor of themselves or others, it is imperative that the different levels of needs as per Maslow be delved into as they form the basis of human actions.

Physiological needs

These are the basic needs such as food, air, water, sleep and sex (McLeod, 2018). When these needs are not met/satisfied, a human being may become irritated, die of starvation, get sick or experience other forms of pain or discomfort. These are the foundation of human behavior, if one is hungry for instance, they will take steps to get sustenance. Many times, humans will act selfishly where physiological needs are involved as these needs are more primordial as compared to others (Bransen & Cuypers, 2016). Hence, if one was starving or their children were starving, they would ensure them or their children get fed first before they consider sharing that food resource with others. Maslow argued that once these needs are satisfied, we can then think of other things and even people. Therefore, this paper ascertains that a key determinant of whether a human being will act in favor of themselves or other human beings is whether their primary/physiological needs have been met.

Safety Needs

The second level of needs that underline human actions as per Maslow (McLeod, 2018) is that of safety. Maslow argues that humanity has the need to establish consistency and steadiness in the unpredictable world they live in. Primary ways in which human beings seek safety is through family and other social/geographical groupings e.g. unions, tribes, country, religious groups and other forms of groupings. If a human being does not feel safe, then they are most likely to act in favor of themselves i.e. for their self-preservation. If the need for safety is not met, as Maslow argues, it is difficult for a human being or a group of human beings to act in favor of another human being or human beings. They will seek their own self-assurance and stability first before they attempt to aid any other person.

Love Needs

Also called the need to belong, Maslow argues that human beings have a natural propensity to lean towards where they feel loved (non-sexually) and accepted, this need underlines the reason why people join clubs, religious groups, workgroups and gangs (McLeod, 2018). This paper ascertains that this need proposed by Maslow is a key determinant of human actions. For instance, if one feels a person loves him/her or they feel accepted within a group, they are more likely to act in favor of the said person(s) or group or themselves. For instance, a husband may feel loved by the wife and thus, buy a gift for them that they may not necessarily be able to afford. Or they may pledge funds to a group and deny themselves the pleasure of enjoying the funds themselves. In agreement with Maslow, this paper ascertains that once a human being feels loved and accepted, they are most likely to act in favor of others.


Maslow argues that once a human being meets the above-named needs, their actions begin to be steered towards that of creating or maintaining self-esteem (McLeod, 2018). As per the psychologist, there are two types of self-esteem that human beings seek to achieve/satisfy. These are self-esteem that results from competence or mastery of a task and the other that seeks attention/recognition that comes from others (also the desire of admiration and to be needed). In this stage, human beings may also seek out power. At this stage of life/needs, this paper ascertains, as supported by Maslow's explanations that human beings will tend to act wholly in favor of themselves and in ways that will portray them to be of high standing in their predominant society/groups. They will more likely buy expensive clothing/jewelry/vehicles/houses as a way of making themselves feel better or building perception.

They are also likely to act in favor of other people but for their own satisfaction/to build a reputation. For instance, they may go to a charity event and donate more money than all other donors in order to seem wealthier than the rest or to make other people see them as the most ideal candidate for a forthcoming election (Bransen & Cuypers, 2016). There are two types of esteem needs.


At this stage, a human being will seek to achieve what they feel is their full potential. People will choose to undertake difficult tasks, higher levels of their professional life than anyone else has achieved (McLeod, 2018). Maslow argued that this level of needs is characterized by a lot of conflicts as people seek to eliminate anything and everything that gets between them and their goals. For instance, if a person feels their spouse is holding them back from achieving their set objective, they are most likely to end the relationship and go for their goals as opposed to keeping the relationship intact and sacrificing their goal. This is another instance where individual needs are seen to override the needs of others, even those that are close to the person in context (McLeod, 2018).

Benefits Vs Consequences of Acting for Self/Others

Human beings are rational creatures and to a good extent, they will base their actions on some form of rationale (Bransen & Cuypers, 2016). This being the underlying position, as Bransen et al (2016) argue, the primary course of thought before a human being undertakes an action is thus whether the action benefits the individual, another person or group of people or both. Ideally, even in today's capitalistic world, this paper assumes that people will always seek out actions/courses of action that will benefit them while causing others no harm. From an ethical point of view, this should be the rationale for all human action and the force behind the statement '...be and let be...'

It outlines the understanding that all human beings are persons of their own thinking and should thus be allowed to pursue their own objectives, without interfering with other people's rights. This is also the base statement in the declaration of independence that gives every American the right to pursue their own happiness. Thus, this paper prudently assumes that all peoples of the world will act in a manner to promote their own well-being as opposed to the well-being of others. However, this does not mean they will harm other people. To the contrary, it implies they are allowed to pursue their own good as long as it does not interfere with the well-being of other human beings. Benefit/consequence is a key aspect to the discussion of human actions (Bransen et al, 2016). This paper assumes that if a course of action is likely to benefit an individual as opposed to a group, then the individual that is the primary beneficiary is very likely to undertake the course of action. However, this paper finds that whether or not an individual works towards his own benefit while sacrificing the good of a larger collective highly depends on the circumstance at hand.

If a stockbroker has insider information on which stocks are going to sell for the best prices or which ones are going to fall in value, they are more likely to keep this information for themselves and gain all the financial benefits from the sale of stocks (Bransen & Cuypers, 2016). However, if the same information were to be availed to government economists or financial analysts, then they would most probably relay the information to the parties that will be affected as organizations pay taxes to the government and the more they earn, the higher the taxes they pay (Maslow, 1954). It would thus be imprudent for government financial analysts/economists to withhold such information and let stock prices crash, thereby crippling companies.

Authorities, Religion, and Society

There are, within society, bodies that govern/regulate human behavior. It would be imprudent for this paper to discuss why people may act in their own favor or that of others, without touching on the influence that these bodies have on human behavior, thereby actions (Bransen et al, 2016). Authorities in the case of this paper imply any government or legitimately recognized governing body e.g. County/National governments, professional bodies, etc. These authorities pre-determine the allowed actions within the society they can impose influence. For instance, theft is not allowed by any government of the world. Authorities normally have known rules/laws usually in writing e.g. a constitution (McLeod, 2018). This set of laws compel individuals and groups to act in a pre-determined manner. Thus individuals can seek their own good or that of others or both but within the confines of the set regulations (Bransen et al, 2016). Any actions done outside the allowed 'parameters' leads to a pre-determined punishment being applied to the person/peoples who have acted against the set laws. These consequences thus act as a deterrent to certain actions thereby modifying and determining human behavior.


Human beings are creatures of rationale thus their actions are to a good extent, guided by some form of rationale. It is this paper's stand that human beings, to a good extent, will use the rationale at their disposal to act for their personal benefit first, before they act on the behest of others or a larger group (Maslow, 1954). This stand, however, is open to further discussion and fine-tuning as there is a myriad of cases in which human beings as individuals act for the benefit of others even at the cost of their own lives.


Bransen, J.A.M. , & Cuypers, S.E. (2016). Human Action, Deliberation and Causation: Springer Science, Dordrecht.

Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper and Row.

McLeod, S. A. (2018). Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

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Exploring the Complexities of Human Behavior & Actions. (2023, Feb 06). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/exploring-the-complexities-of-human-behavior-actions

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