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Acquired Needs Theory

 

Explanations > Theories > Acquired Needs Theory

Description | So what? | See also | References 

 

Description

Need are shaped over time by our experiences over time. Most of these fall into three general categories of needs:

  • Achievement (nAch)
  • Affiliation (nAff)
  • Power (nPow)

Acquired Needs Theory is also known as the Three-Need Theory or Learned Need Theory.

We have different preferences

We will tend have one of these needs that affects us more powerfully than others and thus affects our behaviors:

  • Achievers seek to excel and appreciate frequent recognition of how well they are doing. They will avoid low risk activities that have no chance of gain. They also will avoid high risks where there is a significant chance of failure.
  • Affiliation seekers look for harmonious relationships with other people. They will thus tend to conform and shy away from standing out. The seek approval rather than recognition.
  • Power seekers want power either to control other people (for their own goals) or to achieve higher goals (for the greater good). They seek neither recognition nor approval from others -- only agreement and compliance.

Identifying preferences

A common way of discovering our tendencies towards these is with a Thematic Apperception Test, which is a set of black-and-white pictures on cards, each showing an emotionally powerful situation. The person is presented with one card at a time and asked to make up a story about each situation. 

So what?

Using it

Challenge achievers with stretching goals.

Offer affiliation-seekers safety and approval.

Beware of personal power-seekers trying to turn the tables on you or use other Machiavellian methods. Make sure you have sufficient power of your own, or show how you can help them achieve more power. 

Defending

Understand your own tendencies. Curb the excesses and, especially if you seek affiliation, beware of those who would use this against you and for their own benefit alone.

See also

Needs

 

References

McClelland (1961), McClelland (1975), McClelland and Burnham (1976)

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