The Psychology Behind Need for Affiliation
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The Psychology Behind Need for Affiliation


I remember when my school was changed it was not an easy task for me to deal with all the new people around trying to fit in and most importantly making new friends. It was too much for a 7-year-old. Ever thought about why we need to make friends or why we want to get affiliated with another group of people? Well, the answer lies in our basic need for affiliation (N- Affil)or affiliation motive or need for belonging, a term that concerns establishing, maintaining and restoring a positive relationship with other people (Atkinson

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People with a high need for affiliation are sociable, friendly, and interested in social interactions and they prefer being in other people’s company rather than on their own. In Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, N-Affil acquires third place as basic needs or being needs when ascending to the highest peak of motives in the hierarchy. The term, first introduced by Henry Murray, was popularized by David McClelland. According to McClelland, N-Affil, along with the need for achievement and need for power, constitutes an individual’s primary motivational disposition.

Need for Affiliation

Affiliation is engagement in positive social interactions with other individuals; affiliation is a behavioural consequence of social motivation and can manifest itself in socially approachable behaviour. The affiliation motive operates as a motivating force for an individual, driving them to seek social and emotional support. As social animals, individuals naturally establish a social contract with others, emphasizing the importance of social connections. It is defined as the use of open, friendly, and accepting, social behaviour that allows people to form groups and feel comfortable within them. Social gregariousness or the herd Instinct is an innate motive and one cannot survive all alone, as we humans need people around us to accept us and validate our behaviour.

By affiliation, we mean the tendency to seek out the company of others even if we do not feel particularly close to them. According to the homeostatic model by O’Connor and Rosenblood. In 1996, affiliation can be seen as a drive in that people look for an optical range of social contact. Satisfaction of our basic affiliation needs requires positive social interactions.

One of the underlying variables influencing the affiliation motive is interpersonal attraction, encompassing individual cognition, attitudes, affect, and motivation. Behaviors do not occur in isolation; instead, they involve two or more people initiating actions. This interaction can result in positive social exchanges while minimizing negative social interactions. The fundamental social drive doesn’t necessarily need conscious awareness to guide interpersonal behaviour and attention. Darwin established the concept of “survival of the fittest,” highlighting that both humans and animals can thrive and endure only if they form affiliations with minimal conflict. Through cooperation and affiliation, individuals can reciprocate, demonstrating their fitness or dominance in the process. Affiliation confers self-esteem which helps to sustain the social identity.

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Three Prime Psychological Antecedents of the Need for Affiliation

  1. Reciprocity: It is a state of mutual dependence on action or influence; it is a mutual exchange of privileges. It is a kind of social norm where if someone does something for you then you feel obligated to return the favor that is reciprocated.
  2. Similarity: It is a trait or a characteristic that people have that makes them similar but not the same. Shared traits and commonalities in personality, attitudes, values, interests, and mutual attraction strengthen affiliation needs.
  3. Proximity: It refers to a state of being near to somebody. Proximity is seen among those, who either live close to each other or have psychological or emotional proximity. Higher proximity among individuals who share a common ideology tends to affiliate with each other with the least conflict and top most interest.

The need for affiliation is at its extreme when we are endangered and survival is a must. The recent Netflix movie ‘Society of the Snow’ is a classic example of affiliation motive. Its showcase is how the survivors after the horrific plane crash came together and were Each Other’s support system against all the odds restoring resilience and Faith. Cooperation motivation and common or shared goals with the least clash or disagreement were the key ingredients in keeping their zeal alive and finding a way out.

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Pros of having a higher affiliation motive

Individuals with a pronounced inclination toward the affiliation motive put in extra effort to harmonize with their significant others. They actively extend help and fully commit to participating in social work, fulfilling their social duties. They exhibit more empathy and the friend circle of these individuals is also very fast and are very gullible, with jolly and happy souls.

Cons of being on extreme

In the Quest of trying hard to fit in, to satiate the basic need of affiliation, one may seek varied tactics. However, over-propensity towards it may counterattack in the guise of being considered as an ingratiate filtered or faking good. With affiliation being one of the basic and innate needs, it does have certain disadvantages, as people who exhibit more than normal inclination towards it may tend to get more confirming and may even go along with unwise choices made by the people around them. Under some circumstances, people with a high need for affiliation may also have trouble getting their work done. The clinical manifestations of disruption in need for affiliation may result in social withdrawal, social indifference, anhedonia and over-attachment.

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N- Affil is an innate motive and for its full film we engage with others. Being social animals we need social bonds for survival, maximizing cooperation and minimizing conflict for smooth functioning. Extremes may result in certain unwanted and terrible circumstances. To not disturb harmony and to maintain homeostasis, we need to act in a balanced manner. A careful introspection of our own needs, and narrowing doing our needs could be one of the possible solutions to not muddle up the natural euphony of motives.

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References +
  •> what is reciprocity
  •>social identity theory
  • Allifilation goals and health behavior. Jerry Cullum et. al
  • Atkinson, J. W., Heyns, R. W., & Veroff, J. (1954). The effect of experimental arousal of the
  • affiliation motive on thematic apperception. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology,49(3), 405–410.
  • Lakin & Chartrand, 2003
  • Woike & Bender, 2009

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