The Instinctual Drive to Acquire: A Deep Dive into Human Nature

Breadcrumb Abstract Shape
Breadcrumb Abstract Shape
Breadcrumb Abstract Shape
Breadcrumb Abstract Shape
Breadcrumb Abstract Shape
Breadcrumb Abstract Shape
  • User AvatarDr S.Shah
  • 15 May, 2024
  • 2 Mins Read

The Instinctual Drive to Acquire: A Deep Dive into Human Nature

Human beings possess an instinctual drive to acquire goods and status, a behavior deeply rooted in our survival mechanisms. This drive aligns with the Hobbesian view that life is a constant struggle for resources. In a world where survival demands competition, those who accumulate the most resources stand the best chance of survival and reproduction.

The Evolutionary Basis of Acquisition

Our ancestors developed this drive out of necessity. The desire to seek and possess material possessions, as well as pursue personal experiences, stems from the basic need to survive. This drive manifests in our pursuit of both “regular” and “positional” goods. Regular goods include essentials like food, water, and shelter, while positional goods relate to status, such as one’s position in a social hierarchy.

Emotional Drives and Survival

To survive, drives that produce strong emotional responses are essential. These powerful emotions compel us to take action, even in the face of significant risks. Our ancestors’ survival depended on their willingness to confront danger head-on. For instance, the fear of starvation would drive them to hunt dangerous animals or traverse treacherous terrains to find food.

The Role of Reason and Emotions in Decision-Making

In decision-making, reason and emotions work in tandem. However, it is not just reason alone that dictates our actions but the interplay of competing emotions. For example, the desire to indulge in fatty and sugary foods can be moderated by reason, which activates a competing emotion, such as disgust or concern for health, leading to a more balanced choice.

Our Genetic Predisposition for Greed

Genetically, humans are wired to have insatiable desires and drives. This is because the competitive dynamics of survival historically demanded more than just sufficiency. Our ancestors needed to continually seek more resources to ensure their survival and that of their offspring.

The Double-Edged Sword of the Drive to Acquire

While the drive to acquire has been crucial for survival, it can also lead to negative outcomes. Excessive pursuit of material possessions and status can result in harmful behaviors such as drug addiction, gambling, and alcoholism. The same drive that once ensured our survival can, in a modern context, become a source of personal and societal harm.

Ambition and Envy: The Two Faces of Acquisition

The drive to acquire has both positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, ambition fuels our achievements and progress. It drives innovation, economic growth, and personal development. On the negative side, envy can arise from this same drive. When we see others with more resources or higher status, it can lead to feelings of resentment and inadequacy.

The instinctual drive to acquire is a fundamental aspect of human nature, rooted in our evolutionary past. It has propelled humanity forward, driving us to achieve and innovate. However, it also carries potential pitfalls, highlighting the need for balance and self-awareness in our pursuit of goods and status. Understanding this drive helps us navigate the complexities of modern life, ensuring that our inherent instincts serve us positively rather than leading us astray.


Lawrence P, Nohria N. Driven: How human nature shapes organizations. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School 2001.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *