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The CIN Needs Model


Explanations > Needs > CIN Needs Model

CIN Needs | Evolutionary needs | Underpinning needs | So what?


This is an interconnected model of needs that is unique to this site. What makes it really useful is the simple focus it gives to three key needs, and then show how other needs are causally interconnected. This lets us use it for persuasion by giving a map of the needs hot-buttons that drive people forward.

NOTE: The CIN model has been updated to the CIA Needs Model, with Arousal replacing novelty as a more fundamental motivator (novelty is just one way of arousing).



To explore the model, click on the links!


CIN needs

The diagram shows the three key needs in the central yellow band. CIN stands for Control, Identity and Novelty, which is the general priority order in which we experience them.

  • Our Sense of Control tells us when we are safe and can bend our environment to our purposes. 
  • Our Sense of Identity tells us who we are, especially relative to other people.
  • Our Sense of Novelty tells us that we are learning, improving and evolving. It also helps us compete.

Control and Identity are, in fact, hidden in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Note the we do not always need control, identity or novelty--what is important in most cases is that we believe that we have them. This is particularly so in our sense of identity, which is entirely constructed inside our minds.

Evolutionary needs

The blue band of evolutionary needs is based in evolutionary psychology and shows how satisfying the three key needs can lead to that useful outcome of survival of the species.

  • If we can stay healthy and survive long enough, we may be able to procreate and have children.
  • To get the best mate, we will have to compete, which may mean fighting or trickery.
  • For survival of the species, we also want our children to reach maturity and mate, so we need to protect them as best we can. 

Underpinning needs

There are a number of other needs which lead to the three key needs.


For a sense of control:

For a sense of identity:

  • Belonging to a group gives us the identity of the group.

  • To be accepted into a group we must appear rational and conform to their rules.

  • The esteem of others raises our sense of identity. Everyone likes a winner so we try to be like this.

  • Being able to explain casts us as expert and rational.

For a sense of arousal:

Similar systems

There have been similar 3-level systems of needs proposed by others. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, there are some close parallels. We believe, of course, that the CIN model comes closer to the nub. In particular, its principles are far easier to use in situations of practical persuasion.


CIN model Control Identity Novelty
James (1892) Material Social Spiritual
Alderfer (1972) Existence Relatedness Growth
Mathes (1981) Physiological Belongingness Self-actualization
Deci/Ryan (1991) Autonomy Relatedness Competence


Apparently even Linus Torvalds, the orginator of the Linux operating system has describe a parallel set of needs as survival, sociability, and entertainment, which is surprisingly close to the CIN needs.

So what?

So build tension by attacking their needs, possibly through the systems they have already built to satisfy those needs. Create closure by offering solutions that meet needs. 

Our need for novelty and control can conflict. Control is about stability. Novelty is about change. As control is the deeper need, it often displaces novelty. So if the other person is seeking novelty, attack their sense of control.

See also

Maslow's Hierarchy, McClelland's Acquired Needs Theory, Kano's needs, Herzberg's needs


Alderfer, C. (1972). Existence, relatedness, & growth. New York: Free Press

James, W. (1892/1962). Psychology: Briefer course. New York: Collier

Mathes, E. (1981). Maslow's hierarchy of needs as a guide for living. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 21, 69-72

Deci, E., & Ryan, R. (1991). A motivational approach to self: Integration in personality. In R. Dienstbier (Ed.), Perspectives on motivation. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press


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