What Is a Need?


A need is a fundamental human motivation. Almost 70 years after Abraham Maslow published his 1943 Psychological Review paper proposing a hierarchy of needs, his model continues to be one of the most influential in human psychology, in subfields such as personality, social psychology, psychopathology, and developmental psychology.

Needs are typically classified as either physiological, safety, belongingness, or esteem needs. Physiological needs include the need for food, water, and air; safety needs such as protection, privacy, and security; belongingness needs such as love, friendships, and intimacy; and esteem needs such as status and prestige. It is believed that these basic needs must be met before more complex, psychologically sophisticated wants can be satisfied.

In addition to satisfying physiological and safety needs, many psychologists believe that the need for achievement also plays an important role in meeting other psychological and emotional needs. For example, individuals who are motivated to achieve mastery of a task tend to have more positive emotions than those who are not. A desire for achievement may also be a motivation to attain higher levels of Maslow’s hierarchy, such as the need for connection and love.

Several methods exist for identifying and classifying needs, including psychometric assessments, self-assessments, and interviews with individual participants. A number of behavioral and social scientists have contributed to the development of models that help identify and rank human needs, and these are incorporated into a variety of psychological theories.

English learners sometimes struggle with when to use the indefinite article, a, or the definite article, the. The simple rule is that a or an is used with singular countable nouns, while a or the is used with uncountable nouns or nouns that are already known to the hearer or reader (i.e., a car, a package, and love).

For example, if a person does not have enough money to buy a new computer, he or she has a need for a computer. The same is true if the person does not have enough food or water to survive. In some cases, a need can be so pressing that a person will do anything to meet it, even harm himself or others.

It is critical for a person to understand his or her own needs and take steps to fulfill them. For example, if a person’s need for creativity is not being fulfilled through work, the person may want to consider taking up painting or writing as an outlet.

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