Examining the Perceived World of 60 Prison Inmates in Relation to Need Presence (the Roots of Behavior)

By DeMoulin, Donald F. | Education, Winter 1995 | Go to article overview
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Examining the Perceived World of 60 Prison Inmates in Relation to Need Presence (the Roots of Behavior)


DeMoulin, Donald F., Education


Assessing Need Presence

In December, 1949 (Commanger), The New York Times reported a study indicating that new methods for assessing needs presence was one of the greatest contributions to society in the first half of the 20th century. In relation to such other, of the greatest contributions to society, were Henry Ford, making every persona neighbor; Edison, giving us the electric lights; Einstein, relativity theory; Ghandi, passive resistance; Marconi, the radio; Reed, disease control; etc.

The greatest contribution in relation to "need presence", of course, was "free association", the basis of psychoanalysis. Here an individual is asked to talk about anything that comes to mind, and without being questioned. Typically, the individual under "free association" tends to reveal those areas of life where need presence is greatest. Later, at Stanford University, Leon festinger (1957), taught us how to develop tests to measure the degree of need presence in individuals. Festinger described how "cognitive dissonance" (feelings of general discontent) emerge when needs are not gratified, which is the technique used in assessing need presence. For example, if an individual is asked, "Is your home warm and friendly?", and he/she says "No", it is clear that there is cognitive dissonance", and which is interpreted as unfulfilled need presence.

The Need Gratification Test (NEEDS)

The Need Gratification Test (NEEDS) used in this study was developed making use of the Festinger "cognitive dissonance" theory. First it seeks to include eight different areas of one's life space; so that a good picture is obtained of total life; as compared to some small segment. These eight areas, each comprised of 25 tree/false type items, are further divided into two parts: Part I dealing with areas that are internal and personal in nature: while Part II deals with areas that are external and impersonal in nature:

Part I - Internal/Personal:

1. Home & family HOM

2. Religion & Inner Dev. REL

3. Affiliation & Social AFF

4. Survival & Pollution SUR

Total - IPTOT

Part II - External/Impersonal:

5. School & Learning SCH

6. Travel & Relaxation TRA

7. Sports & Risk Taking SPO

8. Money & Productivity MON

Total - EITOT

Total Need Presence - NEETOT

Groups Used in Study

The focus for the study was on 60 male inmates attending an educational class that was a portion of a rehabilitation program. It included a second group of corresponding others not presently in prison for purposes of ascertaining significant differences for the planning of successful entry from prison back to society.

Male Prisoners

The prison inmate group was comprised of 60 males ranging in age from 16 to 61 years, with a mean age of 25.23 and with a standard deviation of 8.51 years. None of the individuals reported being married at the time of incarceration. All of them were presently participating in the educational program, which was considered to be an important element in the rehabilitation offerings. It was designed to help make inmates productive members of society after completing their internment. Some of the control groups members were roamed, and, as a group, they were significantly older. The mean age difference of 6.42 years was not believed to be sufficient to invalidate the findings.

Comparative Group

The group of individuals used for comparison was comprised of 64 male typical individuals who had been administered The Need Gratification Test (NEEDS) in connection with another study. They ranged in age from 20 to 46 years, with a mean age of 31.55 and with a standard deviation of 6.40 years.

Purpose for Study

The main purpose for the study was to better understand the needs of such prison inmates, with view to prepare them better for success upon release from prison.

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