Introduction (Psychology and Mental Health)
Social behavior is a characteristic of animals with highly developed nervous systems, in particular the vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish) and the invertebrate social insects (ants and termites). In all these species, there are behaviors that are exclusively instinctive (endogenous); however, in mammals and birds, the process of learning from environmental experiences (exogenous behaviors) becomes pronounced. In mammalian and bird species, complex social interactions have evolved in which individuals aggregate and work together for the benefit of the group as a whole.
Such highly social species form aggregations composed of both males and females. These aggregations usually are either migratory, as the individuals of the aggregate search for food, or territorial, in areas of abundant food supply. Aggregation can be defined as a grouping of members of a species for mutual protection and acquisition of resources. Social aggregation is thus designed to find food for the sustenance of the group, to reproduce, and to protect the group members from predators. Single individuals or very small groups generally have more difficulty in finding food and in defending themselves than do large groups. This easily can be seen in birds or cattle, which flock or herd, respectively, at the approach of a predator.
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Dominance Hierarchies (Psychology and Mental Health)
Within such aggregates or societies, male and female associations develop; both associations are based on dominance hierarchies. Association can be defined as an accepted social organization into which individuals affiliate based on common interests for the attainment of the society’s cultural goals.
A dominance hierarchy, or pecking order, is a precisely ranked ordering of individuals from most dominant to most subordinate. Dominance hierarchies are important features of practically all mammalian and avian (bird) societies. They are dynamic social structures that are constantly changing because of continual interactions, encounters, and conflicts between individuals and groups of individuals. Several less powerful males may cooperate to usurp the power of the dominant male, for example. Young males or females usually start at the bottom of a dominance hierarchy and gradually work their way up the scale of dominance. Older individuals, as they weaken, generally fall down the dominance scale because of intergroup competition. The overall format of the dominance hierarchy guarantees the best territory, the most mates, the most abundant and best food supply, and the best protection from predators for the most dominant individuals. The most subordinate individuals usually have the worst territory, few if any mates, poor nutrition, and great susceptibility to predation.
Such dominance hierarchies permeate human...
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An individual’s drive, or motivation, to affiliate with other individuals may be attributable to common interests or characteristics, but often this drive is tempered by social pressures to conform to the stability of the existing dominance structure. In many instances, the motivation to affiliate is influenced by societal incentives—a motivating force or system of rewards that is presented to people if they behave or successfully perform specified tasks according to the norms of society. Affiliation with some groups may bring prestige, a better standard of living, and other benefits. Such affiliations usually are easier when kinship with group members exists. (Kinship is the primary social organizing force in many human and animal societies, based on the relatedness of individuals.) Otherwise, the individual may have to make certain sacrifices.
Human societal groups include organizations such as elitist country clubs, social clubs, sport-related clubs, special-interest groups (gem clubs, astronomy clubs), professionally related organizations, women’s clubs, men’s clubs, teen groups, elderly groups, churches, volunteer rescue squads and fire departments, and sports teams. Even youth gangs, mobsters, and hate groups fall within such categories. Affiliation is a social behavior in which practically everyone participates in some way, either willingly or unwillingly.
One phenomenon of affiliation behavior that is...
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Study of Affiliation (Psychology and Mental Health)
Affiliation is a major subject of study for psychologists, sociologists, and sociocultural anthropologists. A critical behavior in the formation of the complex societies that characterize mammalian and bird species, it is very pronounced in human societies. Psychologists and anthropologists study group associations in many different human societies, comparing the characteristics of these different groups to ascertain the importance of affiliation and other group interactions in the development of the individual, the development of culture, and the evolution of human civilization. Studies are also made of group behaviors in primates and other closely related species to arrive at the sequence of evolutionary events leading to group adaptations.
Affiliation motives and drives reveal the psychological background of various individuals and, as a result, enable the researcher to understand differences between people in achievement of goals. Such knowledge can be of great value in uncovering the psychological and physical blocks that prevent some people from reaching their maximum intellectual and physical potential. Dominance hierarchies, while representing a central, structured component of practically all societies, are stumbling blocks to many people. Understanding how they operate can be of great use in assisting the smooth, nonviolent interaction of differing peoples. It also can be used to unravel the roots of antisocial...
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Cultural Differences and Similarities (Psychology and Mental Health)
Social and cultural anthropologists have studied the structure and organization of hundreds of different societies throughout the world. These societies exhibit many of the same social processes and patterns of organized behavior. They all exhibit dominance hierarchies, acceptable rules of individual and group behavior, and strong orderliness based on kinship. Some such societies (Hindu, for example) relegate their members to separate castes, permanent divisions based on genetic inheritance and particular trades. In advanced technological societies, large populations, fast-paced lifestyles, and high regional mobility result in social structures based less on kinship and more on other factors, such as mutual interests, age, gender, and race.
The study of social groups and affiliation motives for such groups provides an informative analysis of human social evolution within the context of rapidly changing societies. The psychological impact of such changes on the individual and on the group as a whole can provide an understanding of societal problems such as crime, social inequality, and intergroup tensions. Underlying all these situations is the natural biological tendency for individuals to aggregate for the common good of all members, thereby reducing the chance of danger to individual members. Humans, like all animals, have a need to interact and associate with other members of their own species. The...
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Motivational Theories (Psychology and Mental Health)
Societal pressures to conform and to affiliate are great. Numerous psychologists have propounded theories describing the psychological bases behind an individual’s motives to affiliate with other individuals. These theories are in agreement as to the goals of affiliation—objectives such as friendship, mutual interests, mating, acquiring food, and ensuring protection. These theories differ, however, in the psychological mechanisms behind the affiliation motive.
Among the most famous of these motivational theories is one that comes from the work of the psychoanalytical pioneer Sigmund Freud. Freud proposed that all motivational drives within an individual center on two principal components of the individual psyche: the libido and the Eros instinct. The libido is an aspect of one’s psychological makeup whose prime focus is sexual reproduction, whereas the Eros instinct is one’s inner need to survive. The libido could actually be seen as a component of Eros, which would then be the need to survive and to reproduce. Influenced by Darwinian evolutionary theory, Freud for much of his career maintained that all motives, including the affiliation motive, are aimed at satisfying one’s sexual and survival needs. In his later work, however, he discovered a new instinct, Thanatos, or the death drive, which he described as self-directed aggression resulting from an inability to channel aggression outward at others and a...
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Role of Sociobiology (Psychology and Mental Health)
The psychological theories of motivation and the cultural manifestations of association and affiliation fall within the domain of sociobiology, a branch of biological thought advanced by numerous behaviorists and analytical psychologists that has been considerably refined and compellingly presented by Harvard University entomologist Edward O. Wilson. The motive of individual affiliation in any animal society, including human society, is the achievement of personal and group needs, which essentially boil down to views of survival and reproduction similar to those expressed by Freud.
Psychology and animal behavior have isolated the basis of affiliation and of behavior as one’s instinctive needs as a living organism. This rationale stems from the fact that humans are animals and are the products of at least 3.8 billion years of evolutionary change on Earth. The nature of all life is to survive and to reproduce. Therefore, the activities of all organisms are centered on the achievement of these goals. In sociobiological theory, animal behavior and animal societies are driving forces in the survival, reproduction, and evolution of any given animal species. This theory has produced much controversy and debate; however, there is considerable evidence supporting it.
Affiliation is one of the foci of social behavior. Animals have a need to associate with other individuals of their own species. In so doing, they ensure...
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Sources for Further Study (Psychology and Mental Health)
Carter, C. Sue, I. Izja Lederhendler, and Brian Kirkpatrick, eds. The Integrative Neurobiology of Affiliation. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999. Looks at the biological effects of affiliation and other social behaviors on the brain.
Chagnon, Napoleon A. Yanomamo: The Fierce People. 5th ed. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1996. Chagnon’s anthropological study of the Amazonian Yanomamo people is a classic in the field of social and cultural anthropological research. Devotes considerable attention to group behaviors and individual motives for affiliation. His discussion of social organization includes an extensive analysis of Yanomamo kinship, marriage patterns, division of labor, status differences, and individual social life.
Eidse, Faith, and Nina Sichel, eds. Unrooted Childhoods: Memoirs of Growing Up Global. Yarmouth, Maine: Intercultural Press, 2004. Collection of memoirs meant to address the effects of twenty-first century global culture on the vicissitudes of the affiliation motive in children.
Hall, Edward Twitchell. The Hidden Dimension. 1966. Reprint. New York: Anchor Books, 1990. Hall’s insightful work is an anthropological and psychological analysis of human individual and group interactions, primarily in modern technological societies. Concentrates primarily on personal and private distance levels between individuals in individual-individual and...
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