Hogan (1983) argues that the most basic human motivators are status and acceptance by the group. According to Hogan, the most important social problems early humans had to solve in order to survive and reproduce involved establishing cooperative relations with other members of the group and negotiating hierarchies. Achieving status and popularity likely conferred a host of reproductively relevant resources on an individual, including better protection, more food, and more desirable mates.
According to Hogan's theory, being ostracized from a group would have been extremely damaging. Therefore, it can be predicted that humans have evolved psychological mechanisms to prevent being excluded. Baumeister and Tice (1990) propose that this is the origin and function of social anxiety, which is defined as distress or worr about being negatively evaluated in interpersonal situations. They propose that social anxiety is a species-typical adaptation that prevents social exclusion. People who were indifferent to being excluded by others may have suf fered in the currency of survival by lacking the protection of the group. They may also have suf fered by failing to fin mates as a result of being excluded. These individuals may have experienced lower reproductive success than those whose psychological mechanisms caused them to maintain inclusion in the group by avoiding doing things that elicit criticism.
If this hypothesis is correct, what testable predictions might follow from it? One set of testable predictions pertains to the events that elicit social anxiety (Buss, 1990). Groups can be expected to shun those who inflict costs on others within the group i the currencies of survival and reproduction. Thus, showing cowardice in the face of danger, displaying aggression toward in-group members, trying to lure away the mates of in-group members, stealing from in-group members, and murdering in-group members would all have inflicted costs on particular members of the group
Baumeister and Leary (1995) present empirical evidence that the need to belong may be a central motive of human nature. They argue that the group serves several key adaptive functions for individuals. First, groups can share food, information, and other resources. Second, groups can of fer protection from external threat, or defense against rival groups. Third, groups contain concentrations of mates, which are needed for reproduction. And, fourth, groups usually contain kin, which provide opportunities to receive altruism and to invest in genetic relatives.
Several lines of empirical research support Baumeister and Leary's theory about the need to belong. First, external threats have been shown repeatedly to increase group cohesion (Stein, 1976). In one study , World War II veterans were examined for enduring social ties (Elder & Clipp, 1988). Remarkably , their strongest social ties 40 years after the war were with comrades who had experienced combat together . This effect was intensified among the units in which some comrades had died, suggestin that, the more intense the external threat, the greater the social bonding.
The opportunity to acquire resources also seems to be a powerful context for triggering group cohesion. In one study , participants were randomly assigned to two groups (Rabbie & Horwitz, 1969). The assignment to groups alone produced no increase in group cohesion. When one group was given a prize—a transistor radio— based on the flip of a coin, howeve , both the rewarded group and the deprived group showed an increase in in-group preference. Apparently, when resources are linked with group membership, people become increasingly bonded with their groups.
Interestingly, researchers have begun to make progress in identifying the underlying brain circuitry for the pain caused by social exclusion (MacDonald & Leary , 2005; Panksepp, 2005). Social rejection or exclusion has often been described as literally painful. Brain research suggests that social exclusion is mediated by components of the physical pain system, such as the anterior cingulated cortex. The fact that people use words like hurt, wounded, and damaged when they are socially excluded may reflect the shared brain circuitry through which physically induced pain an socially induced pain are mediated.
Since humans have always been intensely group living, and lack of a group almost surely would have meant death in ancestral environments, it is not surprising that we have a strong need to belong, which may represent a key part of our human nature.
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