PSYC 215 Chapter Notes - Chapter 9: Social Animal, Judith Anderson, Russ Feingold
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Being with others: a fundamental human motive
Although born helpless, human infants are equipped with reflexes that orient them toward people,
they are able to respond to human faces, toward voices and mimic gestures, so the newborn
seems an inherently social animal. But in the end we realize that we are all social animals and it
seems that people need people.
According to Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary (1995) the need to belong is a basic human motive,
a pervasive drive to form and maintain at least a minimum quantity of lasting, positive and
significant interpersonal relationships.
We care deeply about what others think of us. In fact some people are so worried about how they
come across to others that they suffer from social anxiety, intense feeling of discomfort in
situations that invite public scrutiny ex: stage fright.
Our need to belong is a fundamental human motive. People who have a network of social ties
(lovers, friends, family) tend to report being happier with their lives and have higher levels of self-
esteem, than those who live more isolated lives. People who are socially connected are also
physically healthier and less likely to die a premature death.
The thrill of affiliation
The social motivation begins with the need for affiliation defined as a desired to establish a social
contact with others (McAdams 1989). Individuals differ in the strength of their need for affiliation,
but it seems that people are motivated to establish and maintain an optimum balance of social
contact- sometimes craving the company of others, sometimes wanting to be alone. Bibb Latané
and Carol Werner (1978) fount that laboratory rats were more likely to approach others of their
species after a period of isolation and were less likely to approach after prolonged contact. So
rats, like many animals have built a sociostat (social thermostat) to regulate their affiliate
People may differ in the strength of their affiliative needs. We want to celebrate together rather
than alone and from others we get energy, attention, stimulation, information and emotional
support ( Hill 1987). Stress is one condition that strongly arouses our need for affiliation. Stanley
Schachter (1959) theorized that external threat triggers fear and motive us to affiliate particularly
with others who face a similar threat and he demonstrated the point when the people that were
expecting to receive painful electric shocks chose to what with other nervous participants rather
than alone. But when Zimbardo (1961) led participant to expect that they would be engaging in
embarrassing behaviours (sucking large nipples) they prefer to be alone.
Why do people in fearful misery love company, while those in embarrassed misery seek solitude?
Yacov Rofé (1984) proposed utility as an answer. He argued that stress increases the desire to
affiliate only when being with others is seen as useful in reducing the negative impact of the
stressful situations. (ex: have the opportunity to compare their emotional reactions) but for those
in Zimbardo study affiliation had little to offer. Facing embarrassment, being with others is more
likely to increase stress than reduce it.
Research suggest that people facing an imminent threat seek each other out in order to gain
cognitive clarity about the danger they are in. ex: patient waiting for open heart surgery preferred
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to have as roommates other patients who were post op rather than pre op because they were in a
position to provide information ( james kulik and heike Mahler 1989). Under stress, we adaptively
become motivated to affiliate with others who can helps us cope with an impending threat.
Schachter (1959) had noted that misery loves miserable company.
The agony of loneliness
Shyness can arise from different sources. In some cases, it may be an inborn personality trait, and
in other cases develops as a learned reaction to failed interaction with others so that interpersonal
problems of the past can ignite social anxieties about the future. Not all shy infants grow up to
become inhibited adults, but longitudinal research indicates that there is some continuity. Shy
individuals are overly sensitive to social cues, and therefore more reactive to any emotional
expression; the fear of the person who is shy of making an error leads them to avoid them to social
Studies show that shy people evaluate themselves negatively, expect to fail in their social
encounters and blame themselves when they do. As a result, many shy people go into self-imposed
To be lonely is to feel deprived about the nature of ones exiting social relations. Some researchers
have maintained that loneliness is triggered by a discrepancy between the level of social contact
that a person has and the level he or she wants. Others find, more simply, that the less social
contact people have, the lonelier they feel.
Who is lonely and when? Loneliness is most likely to occur during times of transition or disruption
(ex: first year of university, after a romantic breakup). Surveys show that people who are
unattached are lonelier that those who have romantic partners but that those who are widowed,
divorced and separated are lonelier that people who have never been married. The loneliest group
in North American society are adolescents and young adults 18 to 30 years old and loneliness
seems to decline over the course of adulthood.
Cope with distressing state to combat loneliness? 96% tried harder to be friendly to others, 94%
took their mind by watching TV, and 93% tried extra hard in other aspect of their life. By
distracting themselves, shopping, stay busy, improve their physical appearance and a fewer
number use alcohol or drugs to decrease the feeling.
The initial attraction
Affiliation is a necessary first step in the formation of a social relationship. According to one
perspective, people are attracted to others with whom a rewarding relationship seems possible.
The rewards may be direct as when people provide us with attention, support, money, status,
information and other valuable commodities. Or the rewards may be indirect as when it feels good
to be with someone who is beautiful, smart, funny.
A second perspective is the one of the evolutionary psychology (subdiscipline that uses principles
of evolution to understand human social behaviour) according to this view, human beings all over
the world exhibit patterns of attraction and mate selection that favour the conception, birth and
survival of their offspring.
Familiarity: Being there
We are most likely to become attracted to someone whom we have seen and become familiar with.
So the two basic and necessary factors in the attraction process: proximity and exposure.
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•The proximity effect: the single best predictor of whether two people will get together is
physical proximity or nearness. Even with the arrival of technology, our most impactful
social interaction occur among people who are in the same place at the same time. Ex:
students tend to date those who live either nearby or in the same type of housing as they
•The mere exposure effect: proximity does not necessarily spark attraction but to the extent
that it increases frequency of contact. Robert Zajonc (1986) found that the more often
people saw a novel stimulus whether it was a foreign word, a geometric form or a human
face the more they came to like it.
People do not even have to be aware of their prior exposures for this effect to occur.
Participants are shown pictures of several stimuli, each for 1 to 5 milliseconds which is too
quick to register in awareness and too quick for anyone to realize that some stimuli are
presented more often than others. The results of this study show that the more frequently
the stimuli is presented, the more people like it. But when asked if they have ever seen the
liked stimulus before, they say no so this results demonstrate that the mere exposure
effect can influence us without our awareness.
Familiarity can even influence our self-evaluations. Imagine that you had a portrait
photograph of yourself developed into two pictures one that depicted your actual
appearance and other a mirror image copy. Theodore Mita (1977) found that most of
female students preferred their own mirror images while their friends liked the actual
Physical attractiveness: Getting Drawn in
As adults, we react more favourably to others who are physically attractive that to those who are
not. Over the years, studies have shown that in the affairs of our social world, beauty is a force to
be reckoned with.
The bias for beauty is pervasive. In a study, teachers in fifth grade were given background
information about a boy or a girl accompanied by a photograph. All teachers received identical
info yet those who saw an attractive child saw that child as being smarter and more likely to do
well in school. In other study, male and female experimenters approached students in a university
and tried to get them to sign a petition. The more attractive the experimenters were, the more
signatures they were able to get. Across a range of job situations, people fare better if they are
attractive if they are not.
What is beauty?
Some researchers believe that certain faces are inherently more attractive than others. There are
3 sources of evidence for this proposition
1. There is a typically high level of agreement among children and adults, men and
women and people from the same or different cultures (Langlois 2000). People
everywhere share an image of what is beautiful.
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