How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Reiss' 16 Human Needs
Steven Reiss has identified sixteen needs based on studies of over 6000 people. Each of these is discussed below.
Reiss also developed a 'Profile of Human Needs' as a form of personality instrument, in which people answer a questionnaire that determines the degree of need they have in each dimension, relative to other people. Realizing these can be used to help explain much interpersonal misunderstanding.
Here is a brief discussion of each dimension.
This is important in evolutionary terms as when we are accepted we gain the protection and support of the group. When we are accepted, we can also seek to satisfy other needs, such as starting a family and gaining status.
Curiosity is the drive that pushes us to learn new things. This is important to get us out of our comfort zones and may be considered a fundamental force of evolution. If we did not learn, we would not be able to cope with changing conditions and would soon die out.
We of course need to eat to survive, which means nature has given us a desire to eat and made it pleasant for us. When we are hungry we seek food, and the hungrier we are, the greater the urge to eat.
We also like to eat 'good food' with pleasant appearance, taste and texture. Even people who have little, when they get more money, they tend to buy nicer food rather than just more cheap food.
Eating marks out the day and helps build circadian rhythms. We also eat socially and family meals are important events, as are business lunches and romantic dinners.
When asked what is most important to them, many would say their family. We seek to help our families and 'kin selection' is a common principle when making choices.
We are also of course driven to build families, which is one reason sex is so pleasurable for us, as is the thrill of love and romance.
Our personal integrity and a sense of honor is important as we seek consistency between our actions and our values. When a person is consistent then others can predict their actions, which makes them more socially acceptable. While we feel a sense of honor, it is created through the respect that others give us and is related to Maslow's esteem.
The rules of honor are often defined by groups and societies and include rules for everyday behavior and also what must be done when the honor of the group or individual is challenged. There may be a need to defend one's honor when one's status or integrity is threatened, which can lead to strange aggressions even where the aggressor will very likely be defeated. Honor cultures are common in regions where there is little rule of law and people live by their reputations.
Idealism is an adherence to ideas that are often clean and untainted by the messiness of everyday life. Believing in the ideal makes life easier and may allow us to deny or ignore life's complications. It also helps when the ideal is shared, such as in religions and politics as this helps social cohesion. Idealism can also help with giving one's life greater meaning.
Idealism includes the need for fairness and justice, where each person gets what they deserve and those who transgress rules are proportionately punished.
While we like to belong to groups, we also seek an independence where we feel as a separate person, with our own individuality. Independence helps create our unique sense of identity. Being independent also means not having to obey others all the time and hence also boosts our sense of control.
When there is order, things are predictable, which gives us a sense of control. People who seek order will be more organized and tidy and will plan for an ordered future. This is in contrast to those who leave things to the last minute and are happy with chaos in their lives (these people get their sense of control more from the choices they feel they still have).
Physical activity makes use of our bodies and so creates physical arousal. Physicality is a primitive thing that animals delight in as can be seen as young and adults wrestle and play-fight. In humans we replicate this in physical games such as football and athletic sports.
There are many forms of power, which may be defined as having the potential to achieve our goals, even if others oppose us. Power helps give us a sense of control. It also confers status and lets us move up social hierarchies. It also helps our evolutionary need to survive and to attract and keep the best possible mate (as seen by the way power is attractive for many women).
Romance is a step along the path to family and replicating our genes. We get a buzz from the excitement of the chase and the thrill of newness and possibility. Love is a powerful force, especially new love, and we can even 'fall in love with falling in love' in a kind of addiction to new romances that never lead to stable relationships.
One of the curious facts of human motivation is that we gain pleasure in collecting things. This is related to the desire to possess and also can give us an ongoing interest in learning about the collected subject and looking out for items not in our collection. Perhaps an evolutionary driver of this is the need to gather food and things to help our ancestors survive the long cold winters.
We like to meet and be with others. Without human contact we become lonely and depressed, which is perhaps why solitary confinement is such a cruel punishment. Contact is sustained and pleasure deepened when we make and meet with friends, who help sustain this need.
Once we have friends and belong to groups, we seek the esteem of others that will help us gain status. This can be a powerful underlying force and can be seen in many conversations where we duel for supremacy, boasting of our achievements and downplaying those of others.
As well as arousal and action, we like to find peace and quiet. There is much to be said for taking time out to sit and chill, maybe reading a book or just contemplating the stars. Epicurus highlighted this as katastemic happiness, the pleasure of being rather than doing.
In the same manner as the needs for honor and fairness, when we are wronged we seek revenge, typically looking for some form of justice that gives us satisfaction and punishes those who transgress against us. We also like to compete, which is perhaps a structured form of this need.
When looking at others, think about how important each of these needs are to them. Then focus your persuasions based on the more significant needs that they have.
Reiss, S. (2001). Who am I?: The 16 Basic Desires That Motivate Our Actions and Define Our Personality, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, New York