Murray's system of needs

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Murray's system of needs is a theory of motivation. In 1938 Henry Murray published Explorations in Personality[1], his system describing personality in terms of needs. For Murray, human nature involved a set of universal basic needs, with individual differences on these needs leading to the uniqueness of personality through varying dispositional tendencies for each need. In other words, specific needs are more important to some than to others. Frustration of these psychogenic (or psychological) needs plays a central role in the origin of psychological pain.[2]

Murray differentiated each need as unique, but recognised commonalities among the needs. Behaviors may meet more than one need: for instance, performing a difficult task for your fraternity may meet the needs of both achievement and affiliation.

List of psychogenic needs

This is a (partial) list of Murray's needs.

Domain Need for… Representative behavior
Ambition Achievement To accomplish difficult tasks, overcoming obstacles and becoming expert
Ambition Recognition * Describing accomplishments
Ambition Exhibition To impress others through one's actions and words, even if these are shocking.
Materialism Acquisition Obtaining things
Materialism Order To make things clean, neat and tidy
Materialism Retention Hoarding things
Materialism Construction Building something
Defense of status Infavoidance Concealing a handicap or a failing
Defense of status Defendance To defend oneself against attack or blame, hiding any failure of the self. Explain or excuse
Defense of status Counteraction To make up for failure by trying again, seeking pridefully to overcome obstacles.
Human power Dominance To control one's environment, controlling other people through command or persuasion
Human power Deference To admire a superior person, praising them and yielding to them and following their rules.
Human power Autonomy To break free from constraints, resisting coercion and dominating authority. To be irresponsible and independent
Human power Contrariance Being oppositional
Human power Aggression To forcefully overcome an opponent, controlling, taking revenge or punishing them
Human power Abasement To surrender and submit to others, accept blame and punishment. To enjoy pain and misfortune
Human power Blame avoidance Stifling blameworthy impulses
Human power Harm avoidance To escape or avoid pain, injury and death.
Human power Infavoidance To avoid being humiliated or embarrassed.
Affection between people Affiliation To be close and loyal to another person, pleasing them and winning their friendship and attention
Affection between people Sex To form relationships that lead to sexual intercourse.
Affection between people Rejection To separate oneself from a negatively viewed object or person, excluding or abandoning it.
Affection between people Nurturance To help the helpless, feeding them and keeping them from danger
Affection between people Succorance To have one's needs satisfied by someone or something. Includes being loved, nursed, helped, forgiven and consoled
Affection between people Play To have fun, laugh and relax, enjoying oneself
Exchange of information Sentience To seek out and enjoy sensual experiences.
Exchange of information Cognizance Understanding: To be curious, ask questions and find answers
Exchange of information Exposition * Delivering information to others

See also


  1. Murray, H. A. (1938). Explorations in personality. New York: Oxford University Press
  2. Template:Vcite book
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