It is difficult to state the exact number of human needs, probably impossible. It depends on how granular you want to distinguish the needs. The number 77 has proven to be the best approximation during the development of the Human Needs System. We assume that we are within an error range of about +/- 10%.
Theories of needs with so few basic needs are mostly created as condensations of the real existing variety of needs. Mostly, mathematical methods like factor analysis are used for this purpose. If you want to explain the world in a simple way, this will do. But if you want to design offers for real people in real contexts, you will soon realize, that you need a more precise differentiation of needs. Behind the super-need "Belonging" there can be e.g. love, friendship, family or a work team - with different experiences and emotions.
77 needs are indeed too many to consider at the same time. Therefore, the first step in a project is to identify the needs that drive the to be designed Experience. This is best clarified in a (short) research phase. Sometimes, 2-3 days are enough. For higher complex topics however, such as smart home or work, more time is required. Usually, you will then be able to focus on a number of 3 to 12 needs.
Needs researcher have been around for about 100 years, starting with the analysts Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung, humanistic psychologists such as Abraham Maslow and Henry Murray, to motivation and values researchers such as Schalom Schwartz and Wolfgang Bilsky. The 77 Human Needs System is a summary of previous research, enriched with Guido Beier's experience from 25 years of psychological work and more than 3000 in-depth interviews as an experience researcher.
In empirical studies on needs analyses in the consumer sector and on the employee experience with over 20,000 participants to date, we have been able to demonstrate the explanatory power of the 77 Human Needs very well.
Most of the information can be found in the publication "77 Human Needs", which you can buy as a high quality, small edition card set as well as in pdf form in our store. Also, we regularly present the 77 Human Needs System at conferences or MeetUps - it's worth checking out our news ticker. Or just simply write us via our contact form.