Motivation and emotion/Book/2011/Social needs

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Basic social needs:
How do basic social needs enhance well-being and self-improvement?

Overview[edit | edit source]

The degree to which one enjoys life can be said to be represented in the strength of their social relationships. However, social relationships as a means of fulfilling social needs can also be seen as a determinant of Happiness and Wellbeing. Social contexts provide opportunities for social needs to be met and for growth and self improvement within the individual. Four types of basic social needs identified by Reeve (2009) are explored here in terms of their effect (both positive and negative) on one's wellbeing. This chapter looks at how social needs are satisfied and the impact this has as a determinant and influencing factor of wellbeing and improved Quality of Life.

This chapter will help you understand what social needs are and their importance in daily functioning and success. Having the ability to satisfy social needs by surrounding yourself with supportive, positive and strong relationships is detrimental in reducing adverse consequences of stressful life events (Rook, 1984) and improving psychological wellbeing - well worth investing in!

Social needs[edit | edit source]

What are Social Needs

Figure .1. "A need is any condition within the person that is essential and necessary for life, growth and well-being. When needs are nurtured and satisfied, we live, grow, and thrive; when needs are neglected and thwarted, we are damaged, regress and suffer” (Reeve, 2009).

It is important to recognise and understand basic needs as they are a commonality between all individuals that help us comprehend what drives human behaviour and motivates us to set and achieve tasks and goals in life. Psychologist Abraham Maslow popularised basic human needs by suggesting that individuals are motivated to fulfil basic physiological and psychological needs in order to reach a phenomenon he coined self-actualisation. Maslow developed a Hierarchy of Needs which is commonly represented as a pyramid (See Figure .2.). In essence, basic needs which appear at the bottom of the pyramid must be conquered before one can be satisfied and 'move on' to address more complex needs. If left unsatisfied, the individual would be left with unpleasant feelings and a sense of deprivation (Benson & Dundis, 2003).

Social needs, differing from psychological or physiological needs, are acquired through experience, development and socialisation (Reeve, 2009). Their effect on mental health and well-being has been documented in many recent studies (Berscheid & Reis, 1998; Myers, 1999) as existing within us as "acquired individual differences that make up part of our personality". These individual differences and social contexts that support one's basic social needs facilitate natural growth and have been found to stimulate wellbeing and self improvement (Deci & Ryan, 2000). A social need is defined as "an acquired psychological process that... activates emotional responses to a particular need-relevant incentive" (Reeve, 2009). Maslow's third stage, Love/Belonging is particularly relevant to this concept, as it identifies the need for belonging, love and affection, developed through strong relationships such as friendships, romantic attachments, and close family ties. The importance of developing and maintaining these relationships is vital in reaching self actualisation and the emergence of the self through expressions of companionship and feelings of acceptance. However, while Maslow's theory may at the surface appear relevant, it is argued that little research actually proves that what characterises the theory can be applicable to real life situations and that it is more subjective than generalisable.

Four basic social needs were identified by Reeve (2009); Achievement, Affiliation, Intimacy & Power. Historically, Freudian Theory stated that emotional experiences formed basic personality structures which in turn, continued to shape reaction throughout life in a largely unconscious way. Therefore, an emphasis was placed on the influence and importance of child-rearing practices of emotional experiences as fundamental in shaping adult experiences. In contrast, social learning theorists have denied early childhood learning as being important or more important at any specific time in one's life (Reeve, 2009). An extensive study by McClelland & Pilon (1983) looked at adult needs for achievement, affiliation and power, in which no association between an adults need for affiliation and experienced child-rearing practices existed. However, few childrearing experiences could be used to predict adult motives which gave the study a conclusion that social needs, rather than being set at an early age, instead emerge and change over time.

Figure .2. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's theory can be understood in terms of the health care sector and overcoming challenges in the workplace and understanding human behaviour and motivations to perform well. Firstly, the most basic needs must be met so that employees do not dwell or become stressed over them, forcing them to spend too much time contemplating the issue. For example, if health care practitioners are paid well and express a satisfaction towards their wages, they are less likely to stress about financial difficulties and percieved inequity. This would allow them to progress towards the next level in which safety and security within the job is sought. A secure working environment can be interpreted in many different ways including perhaps security of employment, or relevant OHS practices. Regardless of how it is percieved, only when that percieved need is satisfied can the practitioner then move to the third level which involves the seeking of social belongingness and inclusion in the work environment (Benson & Dundis, 2003).

Four Basic Social Needs

Four basic social needs[edit | edit source]

Four basic social needs are achievement, power, intimacy and affiliation

Achievement[edit | edit source]

In humans, the need for Achievement is to aspire to accomplish and seek "success in a competition with a standard of excellence" (McClelland, Atkinson, Clark & Lowell, 1953). Influenced strongly by social persuasions (McClelland & Pilon, 1983), this competition may stem from a task, or be a competition with one's self to achieve and exceed beyond what has already been accomplished. While emotional reactions vary individually, individuals with a high need for achievement are reported to respond more to approach-oriented emotions such as hope, pride, and anticipatory gratification. (Reeve, 2009). In contrast, individuals with a low need for achievement are reported to respond better to avoidance-oriented emotions such as anxiety, defense, and a fear of failure. Achievement is an acquired need rather than an innate need, and can develop strongly in children when independence training, high performance aspirations, high ability self-concepts, and a positive value for achievement related pursuits are provided by their parents (Reeve, 2009). However, being acquired, achievement motivations change throughout the life span.

Raised expectations and standards of excellence are enforced towards us everyday and in many different contexts, for example, at school (a test), at work (a brief), in sports (an opponent), (Reeve, 2009). Elliot (1997) combined classical (Atkinson's Model) and contemporary perspectives of achievement to create an integrated model. This model outlined two contrasting types of goals: Performance goals & mastery goals.

Figure .3.Basketball

While a performance goal often refers to outperforming others, mastery goals often allow an individual to (Reeve, 2009):

  • develop greater competence
  • make progress
  • overcome challenges, and
  • improve the self, and

unlike performance goals, mastery goals are often associated with "positive, productive ways of thinking, feeling and behaving" (Reeve, 2009).

When looking at achievement motivations and their influence on wellbeing, implicit theories play a key role in guiding the type of goals people pursue, with incremental theorists often adopting characteristics of mastery goals to improve learning, progress and self-concept.

Power[edit | edit source]

A high need for power stems from the desire to "impact, control, or influence... another person, group, or the world at large" (Winter, 1973), in which high-power individuals strive on dominance, reputation, status, and/or position (Reeve, 2009). Individuals with a high need for power seek out relationships just as those high in achievement, intimacy & affiliation needs, however the purpose of these relationships is to establish and maintain influence over other individuals (Winter, 1973). Therefore, not surprisingly, these individuals seek out leadership roles, and often report strong positive emotions when experiencing a sense of control (Reeve, 2009). Interestingly however, results have shown that having these characteristics did not always make that individual 'more liked' nor does it mean that the decisions they make when leading a group are always the best choice. Instead, when put in group situations, power-seeking individuals often produced poorer decisions as they were less open to alternative ideas, and their assertiveness often proved to be detrimental to group functioning (Fodor & Smith, 1982; Winter & Stewart, 1978; Reeve, 2009)

Figure.4. US Presidential leaders are a often considered a prime example of individuals with high power needs

Intimacy & Affiliation[edit | edit source]

The need for affiliation can be thought of as the need for approval, acceptance, and security in interpersonal relations, whilst more contemporary views focus on the need for approval and need for intimacy as two core facets that make up affiliation (Reeve, 2009). In its early study, the need for affiliation was conceptualised as "establishing, maintaining or restoring a positive, affective relationship with another person or persons" (Atkinson, Heyns, & Veroff, 1954). While they may appear extraverted, friendly and confident, highly affiliated individuals often experience a significant amount of anxiety in their relationships. Overshadowed by a fear of social rejection, individuals with high affiliation needs often interact with others in such a way that allows them to avoid negative emotions, fear of disapproval or loneliness (Reeve, 2009). Highly affiliated individuals are known to monitor people's reactions and percieved opinions of them, and invest time seeking reassurance.

However, a more positive conceptualisation of affiliation is present in intimacy motivation, which provides motivation to engage in close, positive, interpersonal relationships that decreases fear of rejection. The intimacy motive reflects a concern for the quality of one's social involvement and is defined as a willingness to "experience a warm, close, and communicative exchange with another person" (McAdams, 1980).


Intimacy & Old Age

According to Von Faber et al., (2001), older people rate relationships as among the most vital determinants of successful aging. Much evidence suggests that social relationships change over time and the aging process. It is proposed that this is significantly influenced by frequency of contact which also changes (and is often reported to diminish) over time, or due to a shift in focus in which the elderly become more focused on affection and close relationships, rather than maintaining multiple social relationships (Steverink & Lindenberg, 2006). Older and elderly people arguably prioritise their goals in terms of how emotionally meaningful and rewarding they are, a theory which is supported in research that has shown older people to focus their attention on close social partners (Carstensen, 1992).

(Steverink & Lindenberg (2006).

Well-being[edit | edit source]

Elements of Well-Being

Social interactions are commonly associated with increased psychological wellbeing and a positive sense of self. Irrespective of the intensity of stressful events, studies have shown that high levels of social support, and positive social relationships and experiences contribute to a healthy psychological wellbeing (Williams, Ware & Donald, 1981). In contrast to individuals who pursue extrinsic goals, individuals who are intrinsically motivated often experience (Kasser & Ryan, 2001):

  • Optimal functioning & higher psychological well-being and mental health
  • Greater self-actualisation
  • Less anziety & Depression
  • Greater self-esteem
  • Higher quality interpersonal relationships

Table 1: Five Essential Elements of Well-Being

Element Description
1. Career Wellbeing How you occupy your time; enjoying what you do every day
2. Social Wellbeing Having strong, loving relationships in your life
3. Financial Wellbeing Effectively managing your economic life
4. Physical Wellbeing Maintaining good physical health and drive to complete tasks
5. Community Wellbeing Sense of engagement and involvement in your environment

(Rath & Harter, 2010).

Avoidance Motivation & Well-Being[edit | edit source]

Just as high-achievement motivation allows for positive self improvement and enhanced well-being, a fear of failure can lead to a lack of progress, dissatisfaction, diminished interest, and impaired psychological well-being (Reeve, 2009). Performance-avoidance goals emerge when individuals develop a fear of performing poorly, making a mistake and potentially embarrassing themselves. This can have serious negative consequences not only by decreasing the individuals motivation to complete tasks and challenge themselves, but also in their well-being. If an individual is continuously avoiding any situation that might result in a negative consequence, they begin to develop a dissatisfaction, negative affect and find little enjoyment in normally well engaging activities (Reeve, 2009).

Six Dimensions of Psychological Well-Being

(Ryff, 1991)

Self-Acceptance: is one's ability to hold a positive self perception which is accepting of all traits of one's personality, including good and bad qualities. One who scores low in self-acceptance often feels disappointment in the self and wishes to be different.

Positive Relations with Others: refers to the relationships one has with others and the extent of which these relationships are satisfying and trusting. These types of relationships allow for affection, intimacy, understanding, and give-and-take.

Autonomy:scoring high in autonomy means one is able to overcome social pressures and instead focus on individual needs and use that to motivate behaviours. Autonomy relies on personal judgement, regulating behaviours from within.

Environmental Mastery:a sense of presence and competence in certain environments. Scoring high in environmental mastery means one is able to exploit opportunities present in their environment that satisfy personal needs and values.

Purpose in Life: is one's sense of directedness and beliefs that life is purposeful and meaningful.

Personal Growth: An individual who holds personal growth in high regard use goals to reach their full potential and are open to new learning and experiences.

Study: Impact of Social Interactions of Psychological Well-being

Figure .6.Positive social relationships are critical throughout all stages of life

Social exchange theory explores costs as well as rewards when engaging in behaviour, that is motivated to fulfil their needs. A study by Rook (1984) found that not only were positive social outcomes related to wellbeing, but also negative social outcomes had a strong influence on psychological wellbeing.

Positive consequences: Relationships with friends and neighbours, considered to be a high level of social support, were considered a good predictor of wellbeing in adults and elderly. Rook's (1984) study focused on the social relationships of elderly women and how this allowed them to fulfil social needs and therefore increase wellbeing.

Negative consequences: Looking only at positive consequences of social interactions can cause an oversight to the true dimension of ones social life and one's true state of wellbeing. Instead, as social exchange theory explores, the benefits of social relationships and whether social needs are met should be considered in terms of the balance (or imbalance) of benefits and costs involved. While little research focuses on this flip side to social needs and wellbeing, the possibility that individuals with low social-support could be vulnerable to stressful events is a vital perspective. Interestingly, social psychological research has suggested that negative social experiences have the potential to detract from wellbeing to a much larger extent than wellbeing is enhanced by positive social experiences, perhaps because they are not experienced as commonly as positive experiences (Rook, 1984).

Summary or conclusion[edit | edit source]

Social contexts have the potential to satisfy basic needs and faciliate natural growth processes among individuals. Achievement, Power, Affiliation & Intimacy are recognised by Reeve (2009) as vital basic social needs that are fundamental in many areas of personal growth and wellbeing. This chapter has identified types of needs and types of wellbeing and how each interact to impact on quality of life. If we fail to understand our needs, then our needs cannot be met. Social communities provide the opportunity for these needs to be explored and individuals are able to work towards satisfying them. This gained satisfaction leads to a sense of purpose and happier, healthier attitudes in life. Something we wish for everyone.

The stakes might be high, but investing in your friends, family, intimate partner, social communities, and in yourself pull in many rewards and bonuses that are undeniably invaluable.

See also[edit | edit source]


References[edit | edit source]

Atkinson, J.W., Heyns, R.W., & Veroff, J. (1954). The effect of experimental arousal of the affiliation motive on thematic apperception. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 49, pp. 405-410.

Benson, S.G., & Dundis, S.P. (2003) Understanding and motivating health care employees: Integrating Maslow's hierarchy of needs, training and technology. Journal of Nursing Management, 11, pp. 315-320.

Berscheid, E., & Reis, H.T. (1998). Attraction and close relationships. In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds). The Handbook of Social Psychology, 4(2) pp.193-281.

Carstensen, L.L. (1992). Social and emotional patterns in adulthood: Support for socioemotional selectivity theory. Psychology and Aging, 7, pp.331-338.

Costanza, R., Fisher, B., Ali, S., Beer, C., Bond, L., Boumans, R., Danigelis, N.L., Dickinson, J., Elliot, C., Farley, J., Gayer, D.E., Glenn, L.M., Hudspeth, T., Mahoney, D., McChaill, L., McIntosh, B., Reed, B., Abu Turub Rizvi, S., Rizzo, D.M., Simpatico, T., Snapp, R. (2006). Quality of life: An approach integrating opportunities, human needs, and subjective well-being. Ecological Economics, 61, pp. 267-276.

Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R.M. (2000). The "What" and "Why" of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behaviour. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4) pp.227-268

Elliot, A.J. (1997). Integrating the "classic" and "contemporary" approaches to achievement motivation: A hierarchical model of approach and avoidance achievement motivation. In M. L. Maehr & P. R. Pintrich (Eds.), Advances in motivation and achievement, (Vol. 10 pp.143-179). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Fodor, E.M., & Smith, T. (1982). The power motive as an influence on group decision making. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42 pp.178-185.

Kasser, T., & Ryan, R.M. (2001). Be careful what you wish for: Optimal functioning and the relative attainment of intrinsic and extrinsic goals. In P. Schmuck & K. M. Sheldon (Eds.), Life goals and well-being: Toward a positive psychology of human striving. Seattle, WA: Hogrefe & Huber.

McAdams, D.P. (1980). A thematic coding system for the intimacy motive. Journal of Research in Personality, 14, pp.413-432.

McClelland, D.C., Atkinson, J.W., Clark, R.A., & Lowell, E.L. (1953). The achievement motive. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

McClelland, D.C., & Pilon, D.A. (1983). Sources of adult motives in patterns of parent behaviour in early childhood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, pp.564-574.

Moller, A.C., Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R.M. (2006). Choice and ego-depletion: The moderating role of autonomy. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32, p.1024-1036.

Rath, T., Harter, J.K. (2010). Your friends and your social well-being. Gallup Management Journal Gallup Press.

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding motivation and emotion. Wiley & Sons Inc, Hoboken, NJ

Ryff, C.D. (1991). Possible selves in adulthood and old age: A tale of shifting horizons. Psychology and Ageing, 6, pp. 286-295.

Sinaceur, M., & Tiedens, L.Z. (2006). Get mad and get more than even: When and why anger expression is effective in negotiations. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42 pp.314-332.

Steverink, N., & Lindenberg, S. (2006). Which social needs are important for subjective well-being? What happens to them with aging? Psychology and Aging, 21(2), 281-290.

Von Faber, M., Bootsma-van der Wiel, A., Van Exel, E., Gussekloo, J., Lagaay, A.M., Van Dongen, E., Knook, D.L., Van der Geest, S., & Westendorp, R.G.J. (2001). Successful aging in the oldest-old: Who can be characterised as successfully aged? Archives of Internal Medicine, 161, pp.2694-2700.

Williams, A.W., Ware, J.E., & Donald, C.A. (1981). A model of mental health, life events, and social supports applicable to general populations. Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, 22 pp.324-336.

Winter, D.G. (1973). The power motive. New York: Free Press.

Winter, D.G., & Stewart, A.J. (1978). Power motivation. In H. London & J. Exner (Eds.), Dimensions of Personality. New York: Wiley.