Understanding the Difference Between Need and Want


A need is a requirement for something to happen. For example, you need a roof over your head, food and water to survive, and air to breathe. These are needs that all people have in common. People also have emotional needs, which vary by person depending on their upbringing and genetic predisposition. People can use feelings as indicators of what their emotional needs are, and they can take steps to forefront them so that they can be met. This is what Rosenberg calls the “needs cycle.” It involves observing, feeling and identifying your personal needs.

You can also talk about the needs of a community or organization. For instance, there might be a need for more jobs or housing in a certain area. These are needs that would be addressed by a community or organisation responding to demands from the public.

People often misuse the words ‘need’ and ‘want’, thinking that they mean the same thing. In economics, a need is something that is essential for survival and cannot be fulfilled without it; whereas a want is a desire or aspiration that can be postponed until you have the money to purchase it.

Need and want are also commonly confused in other areas of life. For example, people may refer to their “financial need” when applying for college. It is important to understand that this number does not necessarily depend on your family income and that there are other factors that are taken into consideration, such as the cost of attendance.

Similarly, when talking about relationships, people may say that someone is “needy” or that they are looking for love. While these are both positive emotions, they have different meanings and are not necessarily synonymous with each other. In fact, some people might have many needs that they are struggling to meet, which can lead to them being unhappy in their relationship.

A need can be a desire, aspiration or motivation, but it can also be an obligation. The word need comes from the Latin needes, which means ‘a thing that is wanted’. It is also related to the verb neede, which means ‘to want’ or ‘to be in need of’.

The academic study of need was at its peak in the 1950s, but is now largely out of favour. One exception is the work of Ian Gough and David Doyal, who have argued that human beings have distinct psychological needs that need to be fulfilled for us to function well in society. They suggest that a person who does not have their needs met will function poorly or even be sick (either physically or mentally).

However, this theory is difficult to test experimentally because conceptions of need vary widely across cultures. For example, some cultures might consider a person to have a high level of need for power and status, while others might not. Moreover, it might be difficult to measure needs accurately because we are often unaware of our own motivations and desires.