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Mackay's Ten Social Desires


Explanations > Needs > Mackay's Ten Social Desires

Taken seriously | 'My place' | Something to believe in | Connect | Be useful | Belong | More | Control | Something to happen | Love |  So what?


Social researcher Hugh Mackay has identified ten social desires that drive us. These are in addition to basic needs such as for food and shelter, as they  concentrate on our interactions with others.

To be taken seriously

We want everyone to take us serious, to show respect, to be listened to and our arguments considered for their merits rather than being discounted or ignored.

For 'my place'

We need a place not just to call home, but also where we can call 'my place', where we can be just by ourselves, safe and away from the conflict and danger that others may pose.

For something to believe in

Beliefs are at the heart of most understanding. We see the world through the lenses of belief. Beliefs form the end-stop of all understanding; keep asking 'why' and you will eventually reach pure belief.

We can believe in a religion, a mission, a person. When we believe in something, it gives us purpose and meaning. It lets us connect to something larger than ourselves. It has been said that if God did not exist we would create him.

We are programmed to believe. If we do not believe in God then we seek substitutes to explain the same questions that God answers. This is a basic purpose of science.

The truth of beliefs is less important than the comfort and purpose that they give us, whether they are about the origins of the universe or the conspiracies of governments.

Beliefs are often deeply cultural and both bring people together and separate them from others with contradictory beliefs.

To connect

When we are first born, we have a deep sense of connection with our mother (or bonded carer). We feel at one and only later does our sense of individual identity appear. From there on, we are torn between being at one with others and being a separate individual.

We also connect with the world around us. We connect with strangers and characters in stories. We connect with animals and nature. We connect with the things we own and the universe at large.

When we connect, we bond with others and form relationships. The more we connect, the more we like the other people and friends are often just people we have known for long enough. Mediators in disputes often bring together warring parties for just this purpose.

When we connect with others, we also connect with ourselves and so learn to improve, using observation, feedback and reflection.

The opposite of connection is isolation and it is not surprising that solitary confinement is harsh punishment, as is the ostracization of people being ejected from group membership.

These days, online communication is important for many and enables an almost real-time non-stop state of connection. The impact of this on society is still being studied, including a concern for how deep or shallow such connection is.

To be useful

We all want to have meaning in our lives, to know that our lives have purpose. And an important part of that is knowing that what we do is useful in some way. Being useful fills time, giving us something to do with our lives. And it lets us know how that time was well-spent.

While we can do something useful for ourselves, to help survival or further our goals, the greater value and a greater feeling of being useful is when we help others or society at large. When our basic needs are met, we naturally turn to more altruistic helping.

A key way that we know we are useful is when others thank or congratulate us. This affirms our sense of identity and makes us feel good.

To belong

We are social animals and naturally group together into families and tribes. Belonging is consequently an important factor for us.

For more

We live in a consumer society where we are constantly bombarded with advertisements that urge us to keep on buying. Having more than other people also becomes an essential indicator of wealth and hence confers status.

For control

Control is a basis for power. If we have control of something, whether it is resource or people, then we have power. This gives us options and allows us to respond to threats and opportunities.

For something to happen

Boredom is nature's way of telling us to do or experience something. We all have a need for arousal, especially when other needs are relatively satisfied. In sensory deprivation, we hallucinate to create something stimulating.

For love

One of the best feelings we can have is the love of another person, or even love of many people, especially when that love is without conditions. Love is also related to companionship and hence connecting and belonging.

So what?

This is a practical list more than an academic one and it is interesting to compare these with other needs models. Note that a number of the needs are directly social, while others are more about the person, for example the needs for control and for something to happen.

See also

The CIA Needs Model, Bonding principle


Mackay, H. (2010). What Makes Us Tick (the ten desires that drive us), Sydney: Hachette


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