Brief notes on Social Motives from psychological point of view


Social motives are otherwise known as acquired or learned motives. These some complex forms of motives, which result mainly from man’s interaction with his social environment. These motives are called social because they learned in social groups. These peculiar human motives can be looked upon as general states that lead to particular behaviors. Social motives are general characteristics of a person and since they are learned motives, their strength differs greatly from one individual to other.

The social motive that will activate an individual is dependent upon an individual’s own social experience. It is unique to himself and depends upon ways of perceiving things. For this reason, the psychologists have always found it difficult to arrive at a commonly agreed list of social motives as they have done in case of biological motives.

Since these motives are inferred from behavior, it is very difficult to measure these motives. This type of difficulty stems from the problem that we do not know which particular type of behavior is associated with which particular motive.


Need for Affiliation

Sometimes we find people trying desperately to get close to people, to seek their help, and to become members of their group. This type of behavior seeking other human beings and wanting to be close to them both physically psychologically is called affiliation.

In other words, affiliation refers to the need that people have to be with others. This affiliation need is aroused when individuals feel threatened or helpless and also when they are happy. Psychologists have tried to rank people according to the degree of their need affiliate. People high on this need are motivated to seek the company of others and to maintain friendly relationships with other people.

Studies revealed that fear and anxiety are closely associated with the affiliation motive. But where the degree of anxiety and threat is very high, such affiliation behaviour is often absent. Results of situational tests also indicated early learning experiences influence this motive. It was found that the born or only children have stronger affiliation motives than those born later. It is because children use to receive more parental attention during early years.


Different studies also revealed that children who are brought up to be dependent or raised with close family ties show a stronger affiliation motive than those coming from more loosely-knit families that encourage early independence. Affiliation needs are stronger in some cultures than in others. For example, Indian society is strongly affiliating in nature compared to many of the western societies.

Need for Power

As an independent motive, the need for power expresses itself behaviors, which tend to control and influence the course of events including the behaviors of others. Traditionally it was believed that power was desired by people as an instrument to satisfy other motives like greed, aggression affiliation etc.

In the past, we have seen that mankind has always struggled for power. Cities have been destroyed and wars waged by people in reckless manner to increase their power. However, in recent years, emphasis has be placed on power motive as independent in itself and not derivable from other motives. Such a view was expressed by McClelland.


David McClelland (1975) has also described four general ways in which power motivation is expressed:

People do things to gain feelings of power and strength from sources outside themselves. For example, we express power motivation by read stories about sports or we may attach ourselves to a leader from who can draw strength.

People do things to gain feelings of power and strength from sources within themselves. For example, an individual may express power motivation building up the body and by mastering urges and impulses. A person may express power by trying to gain control over things- collecting pistols, fancy, cars, and credit cards and so on.

People do things as individuals to have impact on others. For example person may argue with another person or may have competitive attitude another individual in order to have impact or influence on that person.


People do things as members of organizations to have an impact on others For example, the leader of a political party may use the party apparatus to influence others or an army officer may express the need for power through e chain of command.

For any individual, one of these ways of expressing power motivation may dominate. But a combination of power motives cannot be ruled out. However, ever dominant mode of expression often changes with age and life experiences a person.

Different studies have shown that women seem to have less strong needs for power than men. Generally women are said to express their power motivation by being counselors, advisors and resource persons for other people. In this way, they have indirect impact and influence.

Dependency Motive


Dependency refers to interpersonal relationships where an individual behaves in a way in order to gain attention, reassurance, assistance, comfort, id support from fellow men. People use to spend more time with parents, or intimate friends when in difficult situations. They seek advice and mutually spend upon one another in working on the solution to various problems. In her words, individuals appear to be more dependent on social interactions id approval. Research studies indicate that the girls tend to be more dependent and more affiliate than boys (Maccoby and Jaklin, 1974).

At times of stress people want to resort to dependency, i.e. they are in need of some one’s care, and thus rely on the other (or others) for emotional, economic, and other support like love and security etc.

Cooperation Motive

Cooperation is an acquired motive. It is a condition manifested when two or more individuals or groups work together to achieve a common goal, cooperation signifies lack of mutual disagreement and opposition among fellow group-members, and absence of rivalry. Citizens of Zuni of New Mexico, Pacific e found to be extremely cooperative. Golman reports that being wealthy in Zuni brings no status.

On the other hand status is derived not from power or landed property but from friendships. A happy and successful Zuni is who has the most friends.

Studies of altruism among children provide evidence that helping-behaviour in be fostered through the use of models. Peulson (1974) compared 36 children who had watched all programmes in the Sesame Street Series with those who had not been exposed to the series. He found significantly more cooperative behaviour among the experimental group.

Conformity motive

Conformity generally refers to the tendency to allow one’s opinions attitudes, actions, and even perceptions to be affected by prevailing opinion; attitudes, actions and perceptions. There is behavioral conformity, i.e., the tendency to “go along with the group”- to act in ways consistent with the majority. When changes in attitude, and belief take place because of pressure from significant others, attitudinal conformity takes place. There is also conformity of personality traits, i.e., underlying characteristics of a person undergo changes according to the norms of society.

F.H. Allport (1935) described, the conformity motive phenomena with the help of a conformity curve, which reflects that most people exhibit complete conformity to social norms with fewer and fewer people having deviation Norms are rules or laws or implicit moral standards of a society. Norm refer to behaviour that is usual, or expected, acceptable and socially prescribe Conformity to social norms takes many forms such as “Honor you mother or “Love your country”, which are very encouraging. Norms are ah discouraging, i.e., “Do not steal”, “Do not lie”. They take widely held belief and opinions, and are manifested in forms of dress, speech, manners, and fashions. Our submissiveness to social influences is due to conformity motives to the norms of society in which we live.


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