What Is Need?


A need is a fundamental requirement that compels action for its satisfaction. Needs are essential to survival and human well-being and vary in intensity, urgency and importance. They may be physical, psychological, social, emotional or spiritual in nature. Needs can be distinguished from wants, which are desires or wishes that do not challenge one’s survival if they are not fulfilled.

The concept of need has a broad scope and is widely studied in philosophy, biology, sociology, psychology, economics, politics and business. For example, needs are a fundamental consideration in the design of products and services that meet consumer demands. In economics, a need is often viewed as an incentive for production and consumption in the form of a driving force that leads to market growth and sustainable development.

In the field of English linguistics, need is used as an auxiliary verb and a preposition. It is used with present participle forms of regular verbs such as to be and to have, in questions, negations and conditional clauses. It is also sometimes used with past participles, but this usage is less common in some areas of the United States and most of the British Isles. It is often combined with the modal verb to be, as in He need not go, although this construction is less common and generally seen as more formal. It can also be used as an adverb, as in He needn’t shout.

A person’s needs are influenced by many factors, including their culture and environment, which can make some needs more important than others. In addition, needs change over time as a result of changes in circumstance or life stage. For instance, a need for food and water is universal and does not change, but a desire for luxury goods such as a new car or a vacation might change over time.

According to Abraham Maslow, the need for self-actualization is a fundamental motivational force in human behavior. He proposed a hierarchical model of needs in his 1943 Psychological Review paper that is still widely accepted today.

Individuals’ needs can be satisfied in many ways, including through internal assets such as education, mental health and physical strength. They can also be met by acquiring the right to choose, which is a central tenet of democracy. Whether individuals fulfill their needs is determined by a combination of rational identification based on the most recent scientific knowledge; consideration of their actual experiences in everyday life; and democratic decision-making. The need for basic goods such as food, water and shelter is universal, while other needs are dependent on local and cultural contexts. For example, a need for health care can be judged differently in the context of a given country.