In Marcuse's book, One-Dimensional Man, he expounds on the nature of what humans perceive as their needs. "The intensity, the satisfaction and even the character of human needs, beyond the biological level, have always been preconditioned. Whether or not the possibility of doing or leaving, enjoying or destroying, possessing or rejecting something is seized as a need depends on whether or not it can be seen as desirable and necessary for the prevailing societal institutions and interests." (Ch. 1) It's his opinion that man's needs, beyond the necessities for survival, are dictated not by us, but by society as a whole. This becomes clearer when you consider that Marcuse's definition of 'needs' can be either true or false, the latter being what society preconditions you towards. Distinguishing between these needs and overcoming the prejudice of your own preconditioning is a common theme found in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. In the novel, men satisfy their needs through caring for animals, machine assistance, and the new religion of Mercerism.
At the beginning of the novel we are told of World War Terminus, the war that wiped out a large portion of life on Earth. The population of humans on the planet has also been severely diminished. At a time where most people have left Earth for space colonies and the surface is left irradiated and gloomy empathy becomes one of humanity's biggest needs. To meet this need it has become standard for every person to care for at least one animal. By doing this they feel more connected to nature and life in general. On the surface this appears to be fulfilling one of Marcuse's 'true' needs. The reader quickly realizes, however, that caring for animals has become a class symbol where the size and quantity of your animals are more like indicators of wealth than they are of empathy. This is seen when Rick Deckard is having a conversation with his neighbor about the neighbor's pregnant horse. "[Rick] wished to god he had a horse, in fact any animal. Owning and maintaining a fraud had a way of gradually demoralizing one. And yet from a social standpoint it had to be done, given the absence of the real article." (Ch. 1) Rick is pressured by society to care for an animal, and so feels upset when he's denied this 'false' need.
Empathy remains a need, however, and if animals aren't the key to fulfilling it then people turn to Mercerism and their empathy boxes. Through these boxes people can feel connected to one another regardless of where they are by merging themselves with Mercer. This also seems to be satisfying a true need, but it can be overwhelming and dangerous at times. When John Isidore reflects on this he thinks, "But he knew he'd take the risk. He always had before. As did most people, even oldsters who were physically fragile." (Ch. 2) People feel that they need Mercerism to feel empathy, but sometimes they go so deep into their empathy boxes that they get themselves killed.
On top of society (and in most ways the government) preconditioning people to care for animals and indulge in Mercerism, they also implant the idea that you need machine assistance to be happy. There are several examples of this in the novel, two being the Penfield Mood Organ and the android assistants. Everyone who emigrates off-planet is designated an android assistant to help them with their daily lives. The people left on Earth are then pressured through commercials and advertisements into believing that they need an android and the only way to get one is to leave. Those that do stay usually own a Penfield Mood Organ to dial different emotions for themselves as a shortcut to satisfaction. But these moods are artificial and, much like Mercerism, could lead to a dependence on the machine.
All of these things are society's way of fulfilling the human need for empathy among other things. While this is a real need, the methods used to achieve them may not always be the best. The people in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep are subject to the same desires that Marcuse says our society tricks us into wanting. It's up to us to recognize when this occurs so we don't get sucked into chasing after the satisfaction of fulfilling 'false' needs.