Theory of Consumer Behavior

Nature and Classification of Human Wants

What do humans really want? And can these wants be satisfied or are human wants endless? While these questions may seem philosophical, we actually study the economic wants of humans in economics. It helps us explain consumer behavior and in turn demand and supply. Let us take a look at the nature and classification of human wants.

Nature of Human Wants

All the desires and aspirations and motives of humans are known as human wants in economics. And the wants that can be satisfied with goods and services of any kind are economic wants. Like for example food, shelter, clothing, etc are economic human wants.  And those which cannot be bought are non-economic wants like peace, love, affection, etc.

All human wants to have some basic common characteristics. Let us have a look at the similar nature of human wants.

  • Wants are unlimited. A human is never truly satisfied, and so his wants to are endless. We may temporarily satisfy some of our wants but they always reoccur.
  • Different wants have varying degrees of intensity. Some wants are extremely urgent, some are less intense.
  • Human wants tend to be competitive. We have limited means and so we cannot satisfy all of our wants. So they compete with each other. And the most urgent want will be satisfied.
  • Wants can be complementary as well. To satisfy our want for one good we have to make arrangements for another. So now we have the want of two goods. For example to run a car you need petrol.
  • The wants of any person will constantly be changing according to the time and place and situation of the person.
  • Over time wants of a person can become his habits or customs.

Classification of Human Wants

We can classify wants into three broad categories in economics. These are Necessaries, Comforts, and Luxuries. Let us take a look at all three.

1] Necessaries

These are the human wants absolutely essential for living and surviving. Further necessaries will divide into necessaries for life, for efficiency and finally conventional necessaries. First and most important wants are obviously necessaries for life. These include food, water, clothing, shelter, etc.

And then there are necessaries that improve our efficiency and well being like comfortable housing, nourishing foods, etc. Finally, there are conventional necessaries that arise out of habits, customs or conventions.

2] Comforts

These are the extra wants of the human after necessaries. They are not as essential or urgent as necessaries. Comforts are the wants that make the life of the human comfortable and satisfying. Generally, these include items that save labour on behalf of the human or provide comfort to him in his life. So items such as fans, furnished houses, special clothing for occasions, etc fall under this category of human wants.

3] Luxuries

These are goods that give humans pleasure and prestige in society. They are not needed for existence or comfort but provide happiness and acceptance in the world. These wants may be called superfluous. And such items tend to be expensive.

Some examples of luxuries are cars, diamond jewelry, expensive designer clothing, ACs. As you will notice all these items are not essential to our living. They are items of prestige.

Economic Human Wants: Meaning, Nature, Classification with Examples

(Source: EconomicDiscussion)

Solved Question on Human Wants

Q: The classification of human wants is rigid. True or False?

Ans: The statement is False. The classification of human wants is not a rigid concept. What is comfort for one person can be a necessity for another. And what is a luxury for one person can be a comfort for another. Many such items that were considered luxuries in the past have now become comforts or even necessities for a few.

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