Magazine article USA TODAY

The 16 Basic Desires That Guide Us

Magazine article USA TODAY

The 16 Basic Desires That Guide Us

Article excerpt

There is nothing wrong with workaholics, schoolchildren who aren't curious, or timid people, maintains Steven Reiss, professor of psychology and psychiatry, Ohio State University, Columbus, and the author of Who Am I?: The 16 Basic Desires that Motivate Our Action and Define Our Personalities. While much of society may believe these people have problems that need to be fixed, he suggests they are probably happy just the way they are. They merely have personalities that don't fit in with their critics.

After conducting studies involving more than 6,000 people, Reiss has found that 16 basic desires guide nearly all meaningful behavior: power, independence, curiosity, acceptance, order, saving, honor, idealism, social contact, family, status, vengeance, romance, eating, physical exercise, and tranquility. "These desires are what drive our everyday actions and make us who we are. What makes individuals unique is the combination and ranking of these desires."

He indicates that at least 14 of the 16 basic desires seem to have a genetic basis, (Only the desires for idealism and acceptance don't.) "Most of these desires are similar to those seen in animals, and seem to have some survival value. This indicates they are genetic in origin," Reiss notes.

His theory contrasts with those of researchers who have tried to reduce all human behavior to just one or two basic desires--such as pleasure, pain, or survival--or say that there are some desires that everyone shares equally. …

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