The need for affiliation and the multidimensional model of affiliation

Basil Manning
The need for affiliation and the multidimensional model of affiliation

“Getting together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. " Henry ford

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


  • Affiliation: root of social relationship
  • What motivates people to join?
    • 1. Get positive stimulation
    • 2. To receive emotional support
    • 3. In order to acquire more information
    • 4. To receive attention and acceptance from others
  • Acceptance and relational value
  • Sociometer Theory
  • Social or interpersonal anxiety and isolation
    • Shyness and its challenges in affiliating with others
  • Need for affiliation and social networks
    • What motivates people to stay "connected" even in a virtual way?
    • Conclution
    • Links
    • Electronics references

Affiliation: root of social relationship

Affiliation is the tendency that we have to seek the company of other people, it is that need to establish relationships with others, while the propensity to positively evaluate another person and desire for closeness, is known as interpersonal attraction, which contemplates cognitive, affective and behavioral components. Our need to "belong" serves as a fundamental human motivation.

The first systematic investigations on affiliation from the perspective of social psychology were carried out by Stanley Schachter (1959), in which he studied group uniformity and the communication mechanisms through which groups persist and maintain their cohesion, that is: "The total field of forces that act in the members so that the group survives".

Together with his colleagues, he carried out numerous experiments, in which they concluded that association with other people serves various purposes, while promoting adaptation and natural selection, which we can observe throughout history, since at Associating with others the human being has been able to ensure their protection, has adapted to the environment, has been able to solve basic problems and some more complex than life supposes, the formation and belonging to certain groups contributes to the survival of the individual and the species same.

This 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 terms of this need, as it depends a lot on their personality traits and their particular circumstances..

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

This paradigm maintains that it is natural to look for 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. that we face day by day. Goldschmidt said that man by nature is subject to social existence, so he presents the dilemma between favoring his own interests or recognizing those of the group to which he belongs.

Social learning encourages the development of basic life skills and in many cases has a healing effect, learning to live in respect and harmony with others, being useful to the community under certain circumstances, as well as acquiring strategies for conflict resolution, are some advantages of membership.

What motivates people to join?

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

"Associating 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 it is stimulating. When people come into contact, they affect the experiential field of others, whether they consciously perceive it or not..

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

2. To receive emotional support

"Unity is strength and discord weakens." Aesop

Why do people in misery seek companionship, while people in shame often seek loneliness??

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

The intensity of people's preference to join in a stressful situation depends on the costs and benefits that it entails, which is influenced by the personality and the particular context of the subject..

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

In one of Schachter's experiments, women with high levels of anxiety, regardless of whether or not they could talk about their specific concern, preferred to be accompanied. He said that being able to talk about the situation or simply share trivialities and superfluous issues, can be of great help, by participating in a conversation that draws attention away from problems and threatening situations, stress and anxiety are reduced. That is why it is common to seek to be "connected" with others in some way in adverse times, because the greater the anxiety and stress, the greater the need for affiliation..

When someone experiences deep pain, when certain bonds are broken, such as in the separation or estrangement of a loved one due to distance, divorce or death itself, the need to belong can be intense
they become more distressed when they are neglected, rejected, excluded, stigmatized or sentenced to ostracism, exile, exile, or some form of “social demise” (Williams and Nida, 2011).

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

One condition that increases the desire to affiliate is stress. Obtaining emotional support, when we feel fearful or face adverse situations, in order to receive sympathy, understanding, compassion and the care of others, is natural. So, if you are going through a difficult situation, do not hesitate to approach your friends and 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 join groups with which you feel identified and motivated can also be beneficial, in affiliation and cohesion there are benefits of belonging to mutual aid groups, where a similar problem is shared, so there is greater understanding and empathy, however, it is convenient that said group is 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, people can be made more aware of the consequences of their behaviors. By acquiring information, a 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, exchange information, it can reduce the anguish, although the conflict is not resolved, the Hearing different points of view about a challenging situation can be of great help and provide the individual with more appropriate strategies for solving or coping with their dilemma, which is why many people experience great relief when discussing a problem with a friend.

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

In this way, a process of social comparison is set in motion in which individuals evaluate the appropriateness and convenience of their response to a given circumstance. "Misery loves miserable company", people seek company, especially in situations of fear, anxiety or misfortune. When we associate with other people, uncertainty and confusion can be reduced, which helps to respond more appropriately and adaptively, primarily in ambiguous situations. Through social comparison, we can obtain a reference from 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, either 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 higher self-esteem and satisfaction with life, compared to those who have a more isolated lifestyle. (Denissen et al., 2008).

 “We are not only gregarious animals that like to be in the presence of their fellow human beings, but we also have an innate propensity to be noticed and favorably viewed by our species. A more diabolical punishment cannot be imagined, if it were physically possible, for the individual to move freely in society but to go completely unnoticed by 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 to which they feel attached, such as when a crowd celebrates the victory of their favorite soccer team. Instead, Standall asserted 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.

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, to a large extent on it. The basis of many of our behaviors is found in the longing to be accepted, which is a merely subjective experience.

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

As a result, many are deeply concerned with what others think of them, spending too much time, energy, and resources to appear presentable and attractive to others. 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 to a certain degree, the most important reference must come from oneself. How can we measure the relational value we have with others? A simple way can be observing the level of cooperation of other individuals with us..

Sociometer Theory

It postulates that people have a psychological system by means of which they detect certain patterns about the acceptance and rejection they perceive in their social context, aspects that are of importance for their 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 will take place that aim to protect relational value, thus increasing 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 possibility of embarrassment, people choose not to join. When someone feels fearful, insecure and very uncomfortable when surrounded by other people, that is, they experience a high degree of social anxiety, so that it can be difficult or impossible for them to carry out their daily activities in the different areas in which unfolds, such as at home, work or school, when they experience crisis of situational anguish or there are very marked avoidance behaviors, psychological help is necessary, as the person may suffer from a social phobia or other anxiety disorders, which require special care and treatment.

There are people so distressed by what others think of them that they suffer from social or interpersonal anxiety, which is characterized by intense feelings of physical and emotional discomfort in situations that call for public scrutiny, express excessive anxiety and worry, they may even feel fear before social events such as parties and situations where the subject has to interact with other people, such as school and work, which can reduce 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, stage fright. If you've made a presentation to more people and have felt your cheeks flush, you perspire profusely, your voice falter, and you risk becoming paralyzed or forgetting important information, then you have experienced some of the symptoms of social anxiety. Psychologists can help you overcome distress and provide you with coping strategies for social anxiety.

Past interpersonal problems can ignite social anxieties about the future (Lary & Kowalski, 1995). Therefore, it is advisable to focus attention and energy on the present, daily living already involves 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 affiliating 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 regarding their state, talk about what worries them or simply get distracted. When the person does not have certain social skills or is too shy, when he is easily inhibited and is reluctant to the idea of ​​approaching others, he loses many opportunities and benefits that social interaction entails (Lane, 2007).

Shyness itself is a very common characteristic, in a study carried out 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 approaching strangers, initiating conversations, calling someone and making an appointment, it may be difficult for them to participate with others in groups and mingling at parties, or it may even be difficult for them to ask for help. when they require it!

They frequently reject others, often out of fear of being rejected. For people who are extremely shy, it represents a pattern of risk to avoid interpersonal interactions, while losing many benefits of membership. Shyness can be an innate trait, other times it begins 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 in a virtual way?

A trend has been observed in the increase in the number of friends on 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 reducers of stress and anxiety mainly. With regard to social networks, it has been seen that it helps to have a presence in them, since it allows 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 far away but who are close in affection, such as family, friends and other types of relationships that are maintained virtually, thanks to social networks we can have a feeling of closeness to 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 statistics and trends indicate, 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 anguish and stress, so bad for your health, while affiliating with healthy 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 who are interesting, pleasant or with a sense of humor, this association can instill hope and motivation, provide empathy, information and with it social awareness, fosters development, imitation behaviors, interpersonal learning, group cohesion, catharsis and intervenes in existential factors including.

Harmonious and respectful collaboration with others helps to achieve common goals by multiplying 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 group cohesion and a 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 Psychology. U.S.A .: Wadsworth CENCAGE Learning.
  • Schacter, Stanley (1966). Affiliation Psychology. 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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