Murray’s Psychogenic Needs



Murray’s Psychogenic Needs

According to the website AllPsych Online, Henry Murray posited individual’s personality developed based upon satisfying psychogenic needs. The list of psychogenic needs include: abasement, achievement, acquisition, affiliation, aggression, autonomy, blame avoidance, construction, contrariance, counteraction, defendance, deference, dominance (power), exhibition, exposition, harm avoidance, infavoidance, nurturance, order, play, recognition, rejection, sentience, sex (erotic), similance, succorance, and understanding (cognizance) (“Needs,” 2011). Meeting many of these needs are easily understood by their labels such as achievement, recognition, or rejection; others, require a little more definition. For instance, the need for contrariance applies to a need for individuality or uniqueness. The need for counteraction refers to a need to defend one’s honor. The need for infavoidance refers to the need to “avoid failure, shame, or to conceal a weakness” (“Needs,” 2011, p. 1). Sentience refers to a need to “enjoy sensuous impressions” and Succorance refers to a need “to seek protection or sympathy” (“Needs,” 2011, p. 1).

Although many of the above listed psychogenic needs have failed to find research support per their individualistic incarnations, many of them could conceivably be inclusive to fulfillment or satisfaction of the three needs that have found significant research support, specifically, the need for affiliation, need for power, and need for achievement (Friedman & Schustack, 2012; Sandalgaard, Bukh, & Poulsen, 2011). The need for achievement is defined as the “desire or tendency to do things as rapidly and/or as well as possible” and “to overcome obstacles and attain high standards. To excel one’s self. To rival and surpass others” (Sandalgaard et al., 2011, p. 10). Therefore, with this definition in mind, the need for achievement may be positively correlated with the needs for construction, autonomy, exposition, exhibition, order, recognition, and understanding. The need for affiliation is defined as the “concern about establishing, maintaining, or restoring a positive affective relationship with another person(s)” (Sandalgaard et al., 2011, p. 10). Therefore, with this definition in mind, the need for affiliation may be positively correlated with the needs for blame avoidance, defendance, deference, harm avoidance, nurturance, similance, succorance, and understanding. Lastly, the need for power is defined as the “ability or capacity of [a person] to produce (consciously or unconsciously) intended effects on the behavior or emotions of another person” (Sandalgaard et al., 2011, p. 10). Therefore, with this definition in mind, it is possible that the need for power may be positively correlated with the needs for acquisition, autonomy, dominance, exhibition, order, recognition, and understanding. Although I was unable to find any research regarding correlations such as these, similar in concept to factoring personality traits, it is likely some of these traits may be linked to the others to varying degrees.

The need for Power has been described as “the desire or need to impact other people, to control or be in a position of influence” (“Needs,” 2011, p. 1). This definition would lend one to believe that careers involving leadership would be highly attractive to these individuals; however, although leadership positions may have satisfied one’s need for power in the past, today’s leadership environments are quite different, often requiring traits and skills more likely associated with affiliation and/or achievement. Specifically, leadership has experienced an evolution of sorts over the last several decades as commerce, private and public, has been forced to change and adapt to rapidly advancing technology trends. Traditional leadership patterns wherein the boss made all the rules and dictated to employees have largely gone by the wayside, to be replaced by contemporary models of leadership described as transactional or transformational (Hollander & Offermann, 1990). Transactional leadership inherently employs an affiliative approach to leadership with an emphasis on the reciprocal nature of leaders and followers. “This transactional approach fits other contemporary social science views emphasizing the significance of persuasive influence, rather than coercive power and compliance in organizational leadership” (Hollander & Offermann, 1990, p. 181). Transformational leadership extends and expands upon transactional leadership to include intellectual stimulation, individual attention to followers, as well as ascribing the trait of charisma to the leaders (Hollander & Offermann, 1990). Pointedly, it would seem that contemporary leadership patterns have evolved to embrace affiliative and achievement motivational needs while leaving behind the need for power, and as a result, many traditional supervisors and management staff with it.


Friedman, H. S., & Schustack, M. W. (2012). Personality: Classic theories and modern research (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Hollander, E. P., & Offermann, L. R. (1990, February). Power and leadership in organizations: Relationships in transition. American Psychologist, 45(2), 179-189.

Psychogenic needs. (2011). Retrieved July 16, 2013, from

Sandalgaard, N., Bukh, P. N., & Poulsen, C. S. (2011). The interaction between motivational disposition and participative budgeting: Evidence from a bank. Journal of Human Resource Costing and Accounting, 15(1), 7-23.



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