The need for affiliation and the multidimensional model of affiliation

The need for affiliation and the multidimensional model of affiliation

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Getting together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. ”Henry Ford

Why when people experience difficult situations in their lives do they seek the company of others? Why do we feel inclined to be "connected" with certain people?


  • 1 Affiliation: root of the social relationship
  • 2 What motivates people to join?
  • 3 Acceptance and relational value
  • 4 Sociometer Theory
  • 5 Social or interpersonal anxiety and isolation
  • 6 Need for affiliation and social networks

Affiliation: root of the social relationship

The affiliation is the tendency we have to seek company from other people, is that need to establish relationships with others, while the propensity to positively evaluate another person and desire for rapprochement, is known as interpersonal attraction, which includes cognitive, affective and behavioral components. Our need for "belonging" serves as a fundamental human motivation.

You may be interested: Interpersonal attraction factors.

The first systematic research on affiliation from the perspective of Social psychology were carried out by Stanley Schachter (1959), in which studied group uniformity and communication mechanisms through which groups persist and maintain their cohesion, that is to say: "The total field of forces acting on the members to survive the group".

Together with his colleagues, he conducted numerous experiments, in which they concluded that the association with other people serves to satisfy several purposes, at the same time as it favors adaptation and natural selection, which we can observe throughout history, because by associating with others the human being has been able to ensure his protection, he has adapted to the environment, he has been able to solve basic problems and some more complex ones that life implies, training and Belonging to certain groups contributes to the survival of the individual and the species itself.

That desire and motivation to belong to a social group begins with the need for affiliation, which is defined as the desire to establish social contact with others (Adam, 1989). People differ in this need, because it depends a lot on their personality traits and their particular circumstances.

The multidimensional model of affiliation affirms that, in general, people seek to maintain an optimal level of social contact and when they move away from that objective, they try to modify and adapt their behavior to restore it. This achieves a state of greater cognitive clarity in situations that are confusing or challenging for the individual.

This paradigm argues that it is natural to seek a reference in what others do, that is, we observe and compare the reactions of others to similar situations to evaluate our behavior and try to learn, acquire or imitate adaptive coping strategies in the face of eventualities and challenges we face every day. Goldschmidt said that man by his nature is subject to social existence, so it presents the dilemma between favoring its own interests or recognizing those of the group to which it belongs.

The social learning promotes the development of basic life skills and on many occasions it has a healing effect, learning to live in respect and harmony with others, being useful for the community under certain circumstances, as well as acquiring strategies for conflict resolution, are some advantages of affiliation.

What motivates people to join?

The multidimensional affiliation model states that people seek to connect for one of the following reasons:

Partnering with others can provide us with energy, attention, motivation, serves to obtain information and serves as emotional support. ”(Hill, 1987).

For what purposes do people seek the company of others?

1. Get positive stimulation

Establishing relationships with others for pleasure, simply because you delight in their company, which is pleasant in some way for you, perhaps because they share tastes, interests, dreams, goals or hobbies and is stimulating.When people come into contact, they affect the experiential field of others., whether they perceive it consciously or not.

Social interaction itself implies multiple benefits, as it constantly serves as an incentive to carry out certain behaviors. When a student sets the goal of improving academically, for example, they may feel more motivated to do their homework and prepare when they share the same goal with a classmate or friend, as they can be encouraged and associated to achieve what they want, so do not hesitate in involving your friends, Hellen Keller, said: "Alone we can do very little, together we can do much", collaborating with others divides the work and at the same time can multiply the good results.

I do what you can't, and you do what I can't. Together we can do great things." Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

2. To receive emotional support

Unity is strength and discord weakens. ”Aesop

Why do people in misery seek company, while people who experience shame often seek loneliness?

Yacov Rofé (1984), proposed the affiliation utility theory, where he argued that stress arouses the desire to associate and being with others can reduce the negative impact of the situation of tension or distress that occurs. However, in the experiments they found that people who expressed shame being with others increase their stress levels instead of reducing it.

The intensity of people's preference for joining in a stressful situation depends on the costs and benefits what is supposed, what is influenced by the personality and the particular context of the subject.

What is the benefit of joining others in difficult or stressful times? Research suggests that people facing imminent threats seek company to have greater cognitive clarity regarding the danger they face. Being with others usually makes individuals feel more motivated to face a threat. That is why it is said that "misfortune loves company".

In one of Schachter's experiments, women who had high degrees of anxiety, regardless of whether they could talk about their specific concern or not, preferred to be accompanied. He said that being able to talk about the situation or simply sharing trivialities and superfluous issues can be of great help, by participating in a conversation that separates attention from threatening problems and situations, stress and anxiety are reduced. Therefore it is common, that one seeks to be “connected” with others in some way in adverse times, because The more anxiety and stress, the greater the need for affiliation.

When someone experiences deep pain, when certain bonds are broken, as in the case of separation or withdrawal from a loved one by distance, divorce or death itself, the need for membership can be intense, people
they become more distressed when they are set aside, rejected, excluded, stigmatized or condemned to ostracism, exile, exile, or some form of "Social death" (Williams and Nida, 2011).

Schachter (1959) stated that when faced with external threats, people feel motivated to affiliate, especially with those who face the same kind of problem or threat. Therefore, many individuals choose to stay together in the face of natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, power failures and other types of crises; Those who try to join and join efforts to solve problems tend to have more emotional balance in this type of event.

A condition that increases the desire to join is stress. Obtaining emotional support, when we feel fearful or face adverse situations, in order to receive sympathy, understanding, compassion and care from others, is natural. So, if you are going through a difficult situation, do not hesitate to approach your friends and the people within your social network who can strengthen you, if you do not have them, you can seek the help of a psychologist. Trying to integrate groups with which you feel identified and motivated can also be beneficial, in the affiliation and cohesion there are benefits of belonging to mutual aid groups, where a similar problem is shared, so there is greater understanding and empathyHowever, it is convenient that this group be supervised by trained health professionals, so that the initial objectives are not distorted.

3. In order to acquire more information

Through feedback and self-observation with respect to others in similar conditions, It can make people more aware of the consequences of their behaviors. Upon acquiring information, greater awareness and empathy can be generated about problems that affect us all and motivate individuals to participate for the benefit of certain prosocial causes.

In the studies carried out, it was found that the circumstances of greater anxiety favor the search for interpersonal contact, because it allows somehow to “escape” from the situation, exchanging information can reduce anxiety, even if the conflict is not resolved, hearing different points of view about a challenging situation can be of great help and provide the individual with more appropriate strategies for resolving or addressing their dilemma, so many people experience great relief when discussing a problem with a friend .

It is said that we have a system of “social monitoring”, which is activated when we are concerned about belonging and being accepted in a group with which we feel identified, which increases the sensitivity for social information, especially in people who feel anguish to be rejected by the collective.

In this way, a social comparison process where individuals evaluate the appropriateness and appropriateness of their response to a given circumstance. "Misery loves miserable company," people seek company, especially in situations of fear, anxiety or misfortune. When we join with others, uncertainty and confusion can be reduced, which helps to respond more adequately and adaptively, primarily in ambiguous situations. Through social comparison, we can obtain a reference of the information obtained about the behaviors, opinions and expectations of others.

4. To receive attention and acceptance from others

Positive consideration includes feelings of affection, respect, sympathy and acceptance, the need for attention responds to the desire to be held in high regard and receive praise from others (Hill, 1987). When people have strong social ties, whether as a couple, friends, colleagues, family members or certain groups with whom they share ideologies or interests, it has been observed that these subjects tend to have greater self esteem and satisfaction with life, compared to those who have a more isolated lifestyle. (Denissen et al., 2008).

 “Not only are we gregarious animals who like to be in the presence of their peers, but we have an innate propensity to be warned and favorably seen by those of our species. You cannot imagine a more diabolical punishment, if it were physically possible, for the individual to move freely in society but to go absolutely unnoticed for all its members. ”William James

To be recognized and accepted, many people prefer to celebrate together with others and share their success with others, either their own or the group they feel attached to, such as when a crowd celebrates the victory of their favorite soccer team. Standall, on the other hand, stated that the need for positive consideration is a secondary or acquired need.. The desire to receive gratification from relationships and acquire a sense of communion with others, involves affection, love, intimacy and the feeling of belonging.

You may be interested: Attraction-centered attraction model

Acceptance and relational value

The perceived relational value is the degree to which a person believes that others consider the relationship with them valuable or important, feeling rejected or accepted depends, in large part, on it. The basis of many of our behaviors lies in the desire to be accepted, which is a purely subjective experience..

When a person is valued relationally speaking, it increases the possibilities of obtaining benefits, so many of the human actions represent efforts to maintain their relational value, when this value is high, it means that the person is accepted and vice versa.

Therefore, many are deeply concerned about what others think of them, so they spend too much time, energy and resources to appear before others presentable and attractive. It is essential to strengthen self-esteem and self-concept in the early stages of life; Although it is a tendency to take the experience and opinion of others as a reference, the most important reference must come from oneself. How can we measure the relational value we have with others? A simple way can be by observing the level of cooperation of other individuals with us.

You may be interested: Seek the attention of others, a human need?

Sociometer Theory

He postulates that people have a psychological system through which they detect certain patterns about the acceptance and rejection they perceive in their social context, aspects that are of importance for its relational value, when they detect that said value is decreasing, a “cognitive rearrangement”, Which motivates people to establish behaviors that increase their relational value and are accepted, in this way, a series of behaviors that aim to protect the relational value will take place, thus increasing the sensitivity to social information.

Social or interpersonal anxiety and isolation

Research has shown that When the presence of other people in a stressful situation increases the chance of feeling embarrassed, people prefer not to join. When someone feels fearful, insecure and very uncomfortable being surrounded by other people, that is, they experience a high degree of social anxiety, so that it can be difficult or impossible to carry out their daily activities in the different areas in which it operates, such as home, work or school, when they experience crisis of situational distress or there are very marked avoidance behaviors, it is Psychological help is necessary, as the person may suffer from social phobia or other anxiety disorders, which require special attention and treatment.

There are people so distressed by what others think of them who suffer from social anxiety or interpersonal, which is characterized by intense feelings of physical and emotional discomfort in situations that urge public scrutiny,they express anguish and excessive worry, they may even feel fear of social events such as parties and situations where the subject has to interact with other people, such as school and work, which can diminish the development of the person in different areas.

A very characteristic example of this is the anguish that many present when they have to speak in public, the scenic panic. If you have made a presentation to more people and have felt that your cheeks are blushing, that you perspire profusely, that your voice falters and that you run the risk of paralyzing or forgetting important information, then you have experienced some of the symptoms of social anxiety. Psychologists can help you overcome distress and provide coping strategies for social anxiety.

The interpersonal problems of the past can ignite social anxieties about the future (Lary and Kowalski, 1995). Therefore, it is advisable to fix the attention and energy in the present, the daily life already represents its own challenges that we have to deal with, we can reduce stress and anxiety by subtracting concerns about the past and the future.

Shyness and its challenges in affiliation with others

People need others because we live in a society, sometimes it is simply to celebrate achievements, to share news, they can feel contained when others show empathy and compassion for their status, talk about what worries them or just get distracted. When the person does not have certain social skills or is it too much Shy, when he is easily inhibited and reluctant to approach the idea of ​​approaching others, he loses many opportunities and benefits that social interaction entails (Lane, 2007).

Shyness itself is a very common feature, in a study conducted by Hendersson and Zimbardo (1998), they found that 49% of Americans described themselves as shy people, in Israel 31%, in Germany 40% , in Taiwan 55% and in Japan 57% of the population identified themselves with these characteristics. People who are shy experience difficulties in approaching strangers, to start conversations, to call someone and set an appointment, they may find it difficult to participate with others in groups and mingle at parties, or even they get complicated to ask for help when they require it!

Frequently reject others, often for fear of being rejected. For people who are extremely shy, it is a risk pattern to avoid interpersonal interactions, while losing many benefits of membership. The shyness It can be an innate trait, other times it starts at different stages of development, especially in childhood and adolescence, psychologists can help you improve your social skills and that shyness does not represent an obstacle to achieving your goals and dreams.

Need for affiliation and social networks

What motivates people to stay “connected” even if it is virtual?

There has been a trend in the increase in the number of friends in social networks since 2009. Most of this growth comes from an increase in distant and superficial relationships (Manago et al., 2012).

Although it has been observed that these types of relationships are mostly superfluous, they play an important role as stress and anxiety reducers mainly. With regard to social networks, it has been seen that it helps to have a presence in them, because it allows you to be in contact with others and stay informed, which increases social awareness, although communication is virtual, it can be beneficial. Social networks can strengthen the bond of people who are in lontananza but who are close in affection, as is the case of family, friends and other relationships that are maintained virtually, thanks to social networks we can have a feeling of proximity towards them, even if they are far away.

This tendency to seek to be "connected" with others may indicate an increase in anxiety and stress in the global population. As the statistics and trends point out, these phenomena will increase, so it is convenient that you begin to strengthen your social interactions with others, someone may need you and you may need someone, remember that joining others reduces the anguish and stress, so pernicious to your health, while affiliating with vital and vital people can improve your quality of life.


When we interact with people who share our principles, values ​​or even pleasures, we affiliate with those that are interesting, pleasant or with a sense of humor, this association can instill hope and motivation, provide empathy, information and with it social awareness, it fosters development, imitation behaviors, interpersonal learning, group cohesion, the catharsis and intervenes in existential factors even.

Harmonious and respectful collaboration with others helps to achieve common goals because it multiplies efforts, even in adverse situations, which involve stress and anxiety per se. Affiliation is necessary for the development of interpersonal relationships: There is a positive correlation between cohesion to the group and the sense of belonging, associating with other people, in certain cases can instill motivation and favors altruism.


Electronics references

  • Kassin, Saul; Fein, Steven; Markus, Hazel Rose (2014). Social PsychologyU.S.A .: Wadsworth CENCAGE Learning.
  • Schacter, Stanley (1966). Psychology of Affiliation. Mexico: Paidós.
  • Leary, Mark R. and Hoyle, Rick H. (2009). Handbook of Individual Differences in Social Behavior. U.S.A .: The Guilford Press.
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