Difference Between Need and Drive

Need vs Drive

Need and drive are concepts in psychology that are used to describe human behavior. Most of us are comfortable with the idea of need as something that is necessary for our existence. There are also emotional and social needs apart from our physiological needs that require fulfillment. It is the concept of drive that confuses many people because of its similarities with needs. What is it that drives people to behave in the manner that they do? Is it their needs, wants, or something else? Let us take a closer look at the two concepts and find out the real answer in this article.


We need to do something that is necessary. We also have needs that are physiological, social, and emotional. There are needs that are pressing and urgent, but there are also needs that are not immediate but also intermediate such as the need for a safe environment, need for recreation, need for insurance etc. There are also other so called needs that are not even needs per se but rather our wants such as a big house, a big car, and vacations in exotic locations abroad, and so on. It is these wants that make us work hard all our life to be able to satisfy these needs. We are motivated to keep working to achieve these goals that we set for ourselves in life.


Drive is a state of mind that gets arisen from a need. When we are hungry, we are motivated or driven to act in ways that will help us in satisfaction of hunger. However, hunger is a primary drive. It is a state of imbalance that activates an organism to work in ways so as to achieve balance. If we think according to this theory and conceive of a situation when the primary drives of hunger, thirst, and sleep are satisfied, there is no drive for the organism until that achieves some imbalance. This theory called drive reduction was developed by Clark Hull and explained the motivation through drive reduction.

According to Clark Hull, human beings work to reduce the state of tension. Once a behavior is successful in reduction of drive, the likelihood of repetition of that behavior in future increases. Clark’s theory of drive reduction is no longer considered important as it failed to explain complex human behaviors. For example, activities like skydiving and scuba diving actually increase the state of tension rather than helping in reducing the drive.

There are both biological drives such as hunger, thirst, sex etc. that dictate our behavior that takes us closer to the satisfaction of these drives and secondary or unlearned drives such as fear and curiosity that make us behave accordingly. In fact, curiosity is one drive that keeps human beings search, explore and learn new things in life.

What is the difference between Need and Drive?

• Need is a requirement that has to be fulfilled.

• It is our needs that create a state of arousal called drive.

• Drive keeps us motivated and working to fulfill the need.

• If we are driven by our need for achievement (money, fame, property), we keep working to fulfill this need.

• Needs are biological, emotional and social.

• Drive reduction theory was proposed by Clark Hull, to explain our behavior and motivation.