The 16 Basic Wishes Of Every Human Being

An American psychologist found 16 key basic wishes when explaining our actions.

The interest of the human being for those elements that are elementary for life is nothing new. Along with the philosophy of opulence, a way of understanding life emerged that emphasizes the need to reduce basic desires to their minimum expression:  Eastern asceticism, Epicureanism, meditation practice or, more recently, the example of  Henry David Thoreau and his life in Walden.  

However, all these tendencies have in common the renunciation of desires from a spiritual or at least a deeply subjective point of view. What happens when science intervenes in these inquiries?

What are the basic desires of man?

In an investigation whose goal was to find the structure of human desires, the American psychologist Steven Reiss found 16 basic desires, sources of motivation, which are key when explaining our actions, the volitional dimension of our species: what moves us when it comes to interpreting, choosing and acting on our environment. This categorization of desires into 16 factors is based on a study in which more than 6,000 people participated and is a way of approaching the study of what shapes our behavior and our way of satisfying needs. 

However, it also serves to explain the personality of each one based on which desires we give more importance to and which ones less. In this way, and depending on what desire is the highest priority for us, it would be possible to find what Reiss defines as the โ€œ point of happiness โ€ of each person.

The author first published this classification in 2000 with the book Who am I? The 16 Basic Desires that Motivate Our Actions and Define Our Personalities , and is the following:

1- Acceptance, the need to be appreciated.

2- Curiosity, the need to learn.

3- Food, the need to eat.

4- Family, the need to have and raise sons and daughters.

5- Honor, the need to be loyal to the traditional values โ€‹โ€‹of a community.

6- Idealism, the need for social justice.

7- Independence, the need to have guaranteed individuality.

8- Order, the need for stable and organized environments.

9- Physical activity, the need to  exercise.

10- Power, the need to have a certain capacity for influence.

11- Romantic love, the need for sex and beauty.

12- Savings, the need to accumulate.

13- Social contact, the need to have relationships with others.

14- Status, the need to be socially significant.

15- Tranquility, the need to feel safe.

16- Revenge, the need to hit back.


It should be remembered however that, going to the concrete, the list of objectives, goals and sources of motivation are practically infinite in the human being, since any concept or representation can embody one of them. 

In addition, it is necessary to take into account the cultural variations between the people of each region, which can reward or repress certain manifestations of desire and will. Reiss proposes a list of 16 basic wishes common to all people that nevertheless take a different form depending on our decisions and our context, a theory of motivation.

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