What Is William Schultz’s Theory of Basic Needs?

William Schutz’s theory of basic needs is an interpersonal relations theory that focuses on the three most important interpersonal needs most people share: the need for control, inclusion and affection or openness. The technical name for this theory is Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation.

Schutz was an American psychologist who first published this theory in 1958 in the book “FIRO: A Three Dimensional Theory of Interpersonal Behavior.” According to this theory, these three needs dimensions of interpersonal relationships are sufficient to explain most interactions between people. Furthermore, the theory states that people typically enter into relationships with others in order to fulfill these basic needs.

The need for inclusion relates to a person’s desire to be recognized by others through human interactions and to feel like an active participant in these relations. This is the most basic of the three needs, according to Schutz, and is necessary for a healthy existence. The need for control is the next level, which relates to a person’s desire to feel like they are having an impact in their social sphere. The last level is the need for openness or affection, which is the desire to be liked or loved by others. Schutz theorizes that people often feel alienated from their surroundings when this need is not properly fulfilled.