The study of human wants is very important in economics because no human being on earth is free from these wants. The study of human wants reveals the following characteristics.
1. Human wants are unlimited:
Human wants are limitless. Wants differ from person to person even though there are some wants common to all human beings. When one want is satisfied, another comes which may be of a different kind.
No human being on earth can satisfy all his (or her) wants. With the passage of time and human progress, we find a marked growth in the number and variety of wants. Modern man has countless wants. But the resources necessary to satisfy the wants is limited. So human being is a bundle of wants. All wants together are insatiable.
2. A particular want is satiable:
Though human wants are unlimited and all of them cannot be satisfied, yet a particular want is satiable. For example, if I am hungry, I want food. I can satisfy my hunger by taking some food provided I have the means. So it is possible to satisfy a single want. However, the laws of consumption are based on the characteristics of human wants.
3. Wants are Complementary:
More often commodities are wanted jointly. To satisfy them we need commodities in group. A single article of that group can not satisfy the whole want. For example, the want for a pen to write involves at the same time want for ink and paper; they want for tea requires the want for sugar and milk at the same time; the want for a motor car to drive involves automatically want for petrol (or diesel) and mobile and so forth.
4. Wants are Competitive:
We know that wants are unlimited and resources (or means) to satisfy them are limited. Many wants at a time may appear before us. They compete with each other to be satisfied earlier.
A student may require to purchase a cycle and a wrist- watch. He wants to have shoes and a mobile (or cell) phone. Similarly a man wants Hero- Honda motorcycle and a TV set. So different wants exist at one time.
We cannot buy all articles at a time because of paucity of income (or resources). In our real life we make a choice. This choice will indicate which want is to be satisfied first and which one next. As a matter of fact, the choice we make to satisfy our wants is based on two things. They are: (i) more urgent want and (ii) less urgent want.
It means to grade our wants according to their importance. Further, wants compete with each other to be satisfied first. The nature of competition among wants may be (i) very close and (ii) remote.
Very close competition among wants occur when goods and commodities are perfect substitutes (or very similar) and remote competition among wants occur when the things are unrelated with each other.
5. Wants are alternative:
Wants can be satisfied in different ways by using different alternatives. For example, hunger can be satisfied either by rice or bread thirst can be satisfied either by plain water or by soft drinks. Similarly, we can opt either for tea or for coffee to satisfy our want. So we knew that different alternatives are there before us to satisfy our wants.
6. Wants very with time, place and person:
Wants are not same for all people. Different people want different things. Wants of the persons living in towns are different from the persons living in rural areas. The wants of the people living in southern part of India re distinctly different from the wants of the people living in northern part of India.
The nature of wants during summer season the winter season. Similarly the wants of any two persons are not same. One may be vegetarian while the other one may prefer to have non-vegetarian dishes.
7. Wants are recurring:
Same want may appear over and over again. This means some of our wants recur again and again. These types of wants cannot be satisfied permanently. Our wants for food recur; our wants for articles to quench our thirst, etc. reappear again and again.
8. Wants vary in their intensity:
Even though wants are innumerable still than all wants are not equally important. It means some wants are more urgent than others. So more urgent wants are satisfied first and the fulfillment of less urgent wants may be deferred.
For example, our wants for rice, bread clothes etc. are definitely more important than our need for motorcycle, TV, freeze etc. So food and other bare minimum necessaries of life are treated as most urgent wants while the need for consumer durables are taken as less urgent. However, wants also vary in their intensity (or urgency) at different stages of our life.
9. Some wants turn into habits:
When we repeatedly use an article to satisfy a particular want, then it becomes a habit. Taking tea, chewing betel, taking alcohol, smoking cigarettes etc. are examples of this category.
10. Wants can both be complementary and competitive:
For example, without the use of man power a machine cannot run. It means a machine becomes useless and idle if a man does not operate it. So man and machine are complementary.
Again we find in a matured economy that machine replaces man. At present man and machine compete with each other for its use. This is quite common in industrially developed countries.
11. Wants are affected by advertisements:
Plenty of advertisements through TV, newspaper, radio etc. influence human wants. Especially in TV we come across some attractive and interesting advertisements for different articles.
As a matter of fact, all these advertisements influence our buying behaviour. Now-a-days advertisements play a crucial role in changing our demand pattern.
However, we knew that the study of wants and their characteristics is very essential and it becomes the basis of the laws of consumption.