28 Needs That Shape Our Individual Personalities & How We Interact With Others

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Have you ever been talking to someone and suddenly find yourself wondering, “Why do you care so much about that?”

I definitely have. Some people will even say something like that aloud, causing much consternation from their conversation partner and sometimes even a bit of a verbal tussle.

The fact of the matter is that not all people are the same. While there are some drives that we all experience at one time or another (for example, hunger), there are other secondary motivations that are not universal — at least not to any significant degree.

Personality theorist Henry Murray set out to study these secondary needs and discovered 28 of them, each belonging to one of eight domains.

Here are those 28 needs, organized by domain.

Ambition

  1. Achievement. To accomplish tasks, defeat challenges, and develop expertise.
  2. Exhibition. To impress other people through your action and words.
  3. Recognition. To receive praise from others for your achievements.
  4. Superiority.  To feel superior to others.

    Materialism

  5. Acquisition. To get objects.
  6. Conservance. To upkeep objects that you already own and appropriately maintain their condition.
  7. Construction. To build objects.
  8. Order. To keep things organized, neat, clean, and tidy.
  9. Retention. To keep items that are already in your possession.

    Defense of Status

  10. Counteraction. To make up for a previous failure, mistake, or shortcoming.
  11. Defendance. To defend yourself against any external attacks.
  12. Infavoidance. To avoid being humiliated or embarrassed.
  13. Inviolacy. To prevent damage to your reputation or self-respect.
  14. Seclusion. To isolate yourself from others.

    Human Power

  15. Autonomy. To maintain your independence.
  16. Contrariance. To be different from other people, unique.
  17. Dominance. To control other people or your environment.
  18. Deference. To defer to a person you perceive as superior by going along with what they command.

    Sado-Masochism

  19. Abasement. To surrender to others and accept their punishment and blame.
  20. Aggression. To inflict damage to someone or punish them.

    Social-Conformance

  21. Blame avoidance. To avoid blame.

    Affection

  22. Affiliation. To have valuable close interpersonal relationships with others.
  23. Nurturance. To act as a caretaker, nurturing those around you.
  24. Play. To have fun, goof off, relax, and have a good time.
  25. Succorance. To have your social needs satisfied by others. Includes being loved, nursed to health, helped with variety of tasks, and being forgiven.
  26. Rejection. To reject other people or things, excluding them or abandoning them.

    Information Exchange

  27. Cognizance. To ask questions, learn, come to understand and know things.
  28. Exposition. To discover novel connections between facts or knowledge and then demonstrate them to others.

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Whew! Quite a list, eh? There’s a lot there. Looking over it, you likely found multiple that resonated with you, seemed like things that were important to you. This is completely typical. People usually have multiple that drive them. Additionally, you probably also found some that you were really not driven by (and you might have experienced moral outrage or disgust from seeing them included). This, too, is normal. Those don’t drive you personally but do so for other people.

Now, sometimes, need differences can be quite complementary. We might find it easier to get along with someone whose striving offsets and balances ours out. Other times, it can turn into a big old mess.

My plan is to dive deeper into some of these needs in future essays — how differences between people can play out, research studies that have been done to dive deeper into them, etc.

But for today’s post, I at least wanted to give a brief overview of them and also to say that the way that we prize (or don’t prize) these needs can dramatically shape our individual values, leading to some quite interesting/confusing discussions when we’re interacting with someone who has a very different set of needs and values.

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This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.

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Books by Page Turner:

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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