Rotter (1982) defined needs as any behavior or set of behaviors that people see as moving them in the direction of a goal. Needs are not states of deprivation or arousal but indicators of the direction of behavior. The difference between needs and goals is semantic only. When focus is on the environment, Rotter speaks of goals; when it is on the person, he talks of needs.

The concept of needs allows for more generalized predictions than permitted by the four specific variables that comprise the basic prediction formula. Ordinarily, personality theory deals with broad predictions of human behavior. For example, a person with strong needs for dominance will usually try to gam the power position hi most interpersonal relationships as well as in a variety of other situations, hi specific situations, however, a dominant person may behave in a nondomhiant or even submissive fashion. The basic prediction formula permits specific predictions, with the assumption, of course, that all relevant information is at hand. It is the more appropriate formula for controlled laboratory experiments but is inadequate hi predicting everyday behaviors. For this reason, Rotter introduced the concept of needs and then accompanying general prediction formula.

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