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Theory of Acquired Needs

David McClelland developed the theory of acquired-needs (Acquired Needs Theory (2001-2013)).  McClelland idealized that an individual develops personal individualistic needs through life experiences (Acquired, 2001).  Needs that are developed through experience are acquired through the learning process (Tallis, 2009).

According to this theory, an individual falls into one of three categories : Achievement, affiliation, or power (Acquired Needs Theory (2001-2013)).  Those in the achievement category strive to excel by avoiding low risk accomplishments as they are too easily obtained decreasing satisfaction in the individual (Acquired, 2001).  Achievers also avoid high risk accomplishments because obtaining these accomplishments is a matter of chance (Acquired, 2001).

An individual who falls in the affiliation category desires feelings of acceptance and peace inn a group by conforming to the normalities within the group (Acquired, 2001).

Those who fall under the power category are considered goal seekers either personally or institutionally (Acquired Needs Theory (2001-2013)).  Those seeking personal power feel the need to control others which is viewed as a negative desire (Acquired, 2001).  Those seeking institutional power, or social power,  desire to assist others in reaching their personal goals (Acquired, 2001).

Establishing which needs category an individual falls in, McClelland and his colleagues developed the Thematic Apperception Test (Acquired Needs Theory (2001-2013)).  The TAT is a visual response test in which the individual is given a card with a black and white photo on it (Acquired, 2001).  The individual is asked to form a story about the picture on the card (Acquired, 2001).  Based on the individual responses, a rating is given in regards to their needs which are demonstrated through the stories they told (Acquired, 2001).  Additionally, this test is used to establish other types of needs such as emotional, cognitive, and economical (Donovan, 2009).

 

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