What are Occurrent Desires and What are Their Characteristics?

July 22, 2023

Occurrent desires are a fundamental aspect of human psychology and play a crucial role in our decision-making process. These desires refer to the immediate wants or wishes that arise in our minds, leading us to take specific actions to fulfill them. Unlike dispositional desires, which are long-term and relatively stable, occurrent desires are temporary and short-lived. They tend to arise in response to certain stimuli or situations, motivating us to seek immediate gratification or resolve some form of discomfort. In this essay, we will explore the characteristics of occurrent desires, delving into their nature, triggers, and implications for human behavior.

Understanding Occurrent Desires

Desires are an essential component of human motivation, driving us to pursue our goals and fulfill our needs. Occurrent desires, in particular, play a significant role in shaping our thoughts and behaviors. These desires are characterized by their immediate and active nature, representing the desires that are currently present in our consciousness.

Occurrent desires can be distinguished from dispositional desires, which are more long-term and stable in nature. While dispositional desires reflect our general preferences and inclinations, occurrent desires arise in specific situations and contexts, influencing our decision-making processes in the present moment.

The Characteristics of Occurrent Desires

  1. Temporal Immediacy: One of the key characteristics of occurrent desires is their temporal immediacy. They represent our current wants and needs, exerting a strong influence on our thoughts and actions in the present moment. Occurrent desires are responsive to the immediate situation we find ourselves in, guiding our behavior accordingly.
  2. Subjectivity: Occurrent desires are subjective experiences that vary from person to person. What one individual desires in a specific situation may differ from another person’s desires, based on their unique perspectives, values, and personal history. These subjective factors shape the content and intensity of occurrent desires.
  3. Dynamic Nature: Occurrent desires are not static; they can change and evolve over time. They can be influenced by external factors, such as environmental cues or social influences, as well as internal factors, such as our emotions, thoughts, and physiological states. This dynamic nature of occurrent desires adds complexity to the study of human motivation and decision-making.
  4. Situational Dependency: Occurrent desires are context-dependent and influenced by the specific situation in which they arise. Different situations can trigger different desires, as our needs and goals adapt to the demands of the environment. For example, the desire for food may be more prominent when we are hungry, while the desire for social interaction may be stronger when we are feeling lonely.
  5. Action-Oriented: Occurrent desires are closely linked to our actions and behaviors. They motivate us to engage in specific activities or pursue particular outcomes that align with our desires. Occurrent desires provide the impetus for goal-directed behavior, driving us to take action to fulfill our immediate wants and needs.

The Significance of Occurrent Desires

Understanding occurrent desires is crucial for comprehending human motivation and decision-making processes. By examining the characteristics of occurrent desires, researchers can gain insights into how desires shape our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in the present moment.

Studying occurrent desires can also help identify the factors that influence the strength and direction of these desires. External factors, such as environmental cues and social influences, interact with internal factors, including emotions, thoughts, and physiological states, to shape the content and intensity of occurrent desires. Recognizing these influences can provide valuable information for designing interventions and strategies to promote positive behavior change.

Furthermore, recognizing the dynamic nature of occurrent desires highlights the importance of context in understanding human motivation. Different situations elicit different desires, and individuals may prioritize and pursue different goals based on their unique circumstances. By acknowledging the situational dependency of occurrent desires, researchers can gain a more nuanced understanding of human behavior.

Occurrent desires represent our immediate and active wants and needs, guiding our thoughts and actions in the present moment. They possess distinct characteristics, including temporal immediacy, subjectivity, dynamic nature, situational dependency, and action orientation. Understanding these characteristics can deepen our understanding of human motivation and decision-making, providing valuable insights for personal growth, behavior change, and the design of interventions aimed at promoting positive outcomes.

Factors Influencing Occurrent Desires

Occurrent desires are influenced by a multitude of factors that interact to shape our wants and needs in a given moment. These factors can be categorized into three main domains: internal, external, and cognitive.

Internal Factors

Internal factors refer to our individual characteristics, emotions, and physiological states that influence the content and intensity of our occurrent desires. These factors can include:

  • Emotional State: Our emotional state plays a significant role in shaping our occurrent desires. For example, when we are feeling stressed or anxious, we may have a stronger desire for relaxation or comfort. Conversely, when we are experiencing joy or excitement, our desires may be focused on seeking new experiences or engaging in activities that amplify our positive emotions.
  • Physiological Needs: Our physiological needs, such as hunger, thirst, and sleep, strongly influence our occurrent desires. When our bodies are deprived of these essential requirements, our desires become focused on fulfilling these needs. For instance, when we are hungry, our occurrent desire may be to find food and satisfy our hunger.
  • Values and Beliefs: Our personal values and beliefs shape our occurrent desires by guiding our preferences and influencing what we perceive as important or desirable. For example, someone who values environmental sustainability may have an occurrent desire to choose eco-friendly products or engage in activities that promote conservation.

External Factors

External factors refer to the environmental and social influences that impact our occurrent desires. These factors include:

  • Environmental Cues: Our surroundings and environmental cues can trigger specific desires. For example, the sight of a delicious dessert in a bakery window may evoke a sudden desire for sweets. Similarly, being in a peaceful natural setting may elicit a desire for tranquility and relaxation.
  • Social Influences: The desires of others can also influence our own occurrent desires. We are social beings, and our desires are often influenced by social norms, peer pressure, and the desire for acceptance or approval. For instance, if our friends express a desire to go to a particular restaurant, we may develop a similar occurrent desire to join them.
  • Cultural Factors: Cultural norms and values play a significant role in shaping our occurrent desires. Different cultures prioritize different goals and aspirations, which can influence the desires that individuals experience in specific situations. Cultural factors can affect everything from desires for material possessions to desires for personal achievements or social connections.

Cognitive Factors

Cognitive factors refer to the mental processes and cognitive biases that impact our occurrent desires. These factors include:

  • Attention and Focus: Our desires are influenced by what we pay attention to and focus on in a given moment. For example, if we are exposed to advertisements or persuasive messages that highlight the benefits of a particular product or experience, our occurrent desires may be influenced to align with those messages.
  • Memory and Past Experiences: Our past experiences and memories shape our occurrent desires by influencing our preferences and expectations. Positive memories associated with certain activities or outcomes can lead to occurrent desires to re-engage in those experiences or pursue similar outcomes.
  • Cognitive Biases: Cognitive biases, such as the availability heuristic or the framing effect, can impact our occurrent desires by influencing how we perceive and evaluate options. These biases can lead us to overvalue certain desires or make decisions based on incomplete or misleading information.

The Role of Occurrent Desires in Decision-Making

Occurrent desires play a crucial role in our decision-making processes, as they guide the choices we make and the actions we take. When faced with a decision, our occurrent desires provide the motivation and direction for selecting a particular course of action. They influence our preferences, evaluations, and the trade-offs we are willing to make.

Occurrent desires interact with other cognitive processes, such as reasoning and judgment, to shape our decisions. Our desires can bias our perceptions and evaluations of options, leading us to prioritize certain outcomes over others. For example, if our occurrent desire is to be recognized and appreciated, we may choose activities or paths that provide opportunities for recognition, even if they may not align with our long-term goals or values.

Understanding occurrent desires and their role in decision-making can be valuable in various domains. In the field of marketing and advertising, recognizing the factors that influence occurrent desires can help companies design persuasive messages and tailor their offerings to align with consumers’ wants and needs. In personal development and behavior change, understanding occurrent desires can allow individuals to identify and modify their desires to align with their long-term goals and values.


What are occurrent desires?

Occurrent desires refer to the specific and immediate desires we experience in a given moment. They are the desires that arise when we have a particular goal or intention in mind and actively engage in making it happen. These desires are directed towards specific objects or outcomes, and they drive our attention, motivation, and actions in order to fulfill them.

What are the characteristics of occurrent desires?

Occurrent desires possess several key characteristics. Firstly, they are intense and powerful, consuming our thoughts and focus. These desires can often feel urgent and pressing, compelling us to take immediate action in order to satisfy them. Additionally, occurrent desires are typically conscious and self-aware, meaning we are fully aware of the desire and its purpose. They are usually accompanied by a sense of agency and intentionality, as we actively strive to fulfill them. Lastly, occurrent desires tend to be temporary in nature, arising in specific situations and waning once the desired outcome is achieved or abandoned.

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