Discuss The Claim That Humans Have A Need To Belong. Ucl Psychology B Sc Essay

1163 words - 5 pages

Discuss the claim that humans have a need to belong.
According to many psychological theories and studies humans are social beings and therefore they have the need to belong. The need to belong is the sense of being linked to someone else in a meaningful way to other individuals; it is the need to form and maintain strong, stable interpersonal relationships (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). This need to belong has various degrees as it depends on the levels of relationships between individuals. On average, adult humans spend 80% of waking time in the company of others, since time spent with others is more pleasant then time we spend alone, and hence it is preferred (Emler, 1994). Studies found that even when we dislike our company, we still prefer it more than social isolation, due to our need to belong.
Research has shown our need to belong has an evolutionary purpose. For example, Caporeal (2007) argued that to ease social coordination humans developed needs to form relationships. Hence, the desire to form and maintain social ties has a survival and reproductive benefit to humans. Ainsworth (1989) and Buss (1990) have both supported this approach. This is later supported by the social brain hypothesis by Dunbar (2003). This theory suggests that primates have evolved large brains to manage their unusually complex social systems (such as, earning cultural stereotypes of groups and learning roles from socially assigned group). Dunbar found correlation between primate brains size and average social group; hence primates have larger brains than other species to cope with complex social networks. This supports the claim that due to our social brain, we have a need to belong to our society.
Moreover, research has shown that individuals shift and adapt their views to the ones of the in-group due to the need to be feel they belong. For instance, self-categorization is the process of seeing oneself as a member of a social group, rather than as a unique individual; it is the activated knowledge about group membership effects people’s self-concept, moods, and self-esteem (Turner et al, 1987). Seeing oneself as a group member causes group’s typical characteristics to become norms and standards for their own behavior, especially for those who strongly identify with the group. As a result, people tend to think and act in group-typical ways- opinions/feelings/behaviours move towards those typical of group. Mackie (1986) had students listen to a discussion which one group presented pro-environmental attitudes. Some students were about to join the group voicing the positive attitudes, while others knew they would not be joining. Students who were going to join the group rated themselves as higher in environmental awareness than did the other students who head the same discussion. This shows that participants’ own opinions moved towards the group’s position due to their need to belong to a group.
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