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Social Motivation

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Social Motivation

Have you ever tried your hardest to be a successful teammate in school? Maybe you wanted to be good at basketball, so you studied the best players in the pro leagues, watched videos of matches, and practiced as much as you could. Your goal was to help your team get a chance to play in the finals and place in tournaments. This is an example of being driven by social motivations to work towards a goal!

  • What is social motivation?

  • What theories help explain social motivation in psychology?

  • What are the different types of social motivation?

  • Why is social motivation important in social conflicts?

  • What are some examples of social motivation in research?

Social Motivation Meaning

Social motivation is a learned psychological drive that we gain through our family, society, and cultural upbringing. We learn to adopt social motivations to help us reach goals. These goals are often based on our social needs and desires, which usually show up in our thinking patterns or behaviors.

People from East Asian cultures seem to put more effort into improving, especially after failing. Heine (2001) demonstrated this by having both Japanese and American students continue working on the same tasks. The American students only worked hard if they could succeed, but the Japanese students worked hard even after failing.

Here is another example of how social motivation (specifically the implicit aggression motive) relates to social goals and can show up in a person's thoughts and actions.

When someone feels frustrated, they usually try to figure out what's going on, which can either worsen these feelings, lessen them, or maintain them. If they become angry, they may start acting aggressively in order to get even, protect their reputation, hurt their enemy, or get rid of the source of their anger.

Social Motivation in Psychology

In psychology, there are several different theories that talk about social motivation. Two of the most relevant theories are Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and the Incentive Theory of Motivation.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and Social Motivation

You have probably heard of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs before! It is a humanistic theory of motivation developed by Abraham Maslow (1943) that talks about all of the things humans want to achieve during their lives. It's called a hierarchy theory because each motivation is arranged in a specific order like stair steps or a ladder.

The five levels in the hierarchy of needs are physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization. The theory states that we have to meet the bottom levels before we can move on to meeting the top levels. Once we achieve the needs in one of the levels, we automatically move on and try to reach the next level of needs until we get all the way to the top.

Social Motivation a diagram of Maslow's hierarchy of needs StudySmarterMaslow's Hierarchy, Wikimedia Commons

Once our most basic needs are met (food, water, shelter, safety, etc.), we can move up to try and achieve love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Some things that can contribute to love and belonging are relationships with others built on intimacy and trust. Once we achieve this, we start wanting to meet our esteem needs. Esteem can come through our job and relationships, and we might start working harder to receive recognition in the workplace.

Esteem is how we gauge our own self-worth. Esteem is usually connected to a sense of confidence or competence.

The last level, self-actualization, is more difficult to achieve because it requires no longer doing things to fit in with others. The goals of self-actualization are personal happiness and growth. Self-actualization takes a lot of work and involves learning from prior experiences and navigating cultural dynamics that are prevalent in our lives.

Sam started a new job two years ago [physiological needs and safety]. At first, Sam was trying to make a few friends and connections at work [love and belonging], since she knew she would be working there for a while. Once she created connections and felt like she belonged in her new job, she began working harder to go above and beyond her required duties.

Sam was recognized as the top earner in her job and received a productivity award [esteem]. Doing great in the workplace made Sam realize she could start her own business doing the same thing, which would improve the overall quality of her life [self-actualization]. Sam is now working towards achieving these new goals!

Incentive Theory and Social Motivation

The incentive theory in social motivation relates to how people are influenced by rewards and consequences. When a person is promised a positive outcome, they become more motivated to try or work harder for something. This can be true for many things and impacts how we strive to do our best at work, school, and sports!

When a person is afraid of certain consequences (like punishment), they usually try to avoid doing anything that will lead to those consequences. This is a natural aspect of social motivation. We want to fit into a certain group or culture that fulfills our sense of belonging, and we want the approval of others.

Sam took classes to improve her customer service skills to ultimately improve her performance at work and increase her customer reviews and ratings. She decided to do this because her boss said she would be let go if her ratings did not increase. The threat of punishment or negative consequences motivated Sam to pursue more training and work harder.

Types of Social Motivation

In most cases, social motivation is related to the achievement motive, which is a desire to be successful through our actions even when taking on difficult tasks. We may also be influenced by the affiliation motive, which is a desire or longing to fit into a specific group. Other types of social motivation fall under intrinsic or extrinsic types of motivation.

Achievement Motive

The achievement motive is the main social motivation. It is all about meeting the standards of friends, family, jobs, or culture. We also try to achieve standards that we set for ourselves. Achievement goals look different for each person.

Psychologists designed a specific test to assess someone's achievement motivation. It's called the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). The TAT is a psychological test that gives people an opportunity to describe their perception of pictures in a way that reveals their motivation and personality traits.

Affiliation Motive

The affiliation motive involves human interaction and connection. We want to affiliate with others for survival, safety, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. When humans try to go without interaction with others, we become severely anxious or depressed.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Social Motives

Intrinsic motivations are internal desires or drives to complete a task or pursue a goal. These kinds of motivation come from inside a person, so they are self-guided. Extrinsic motivations are desires or drives based on an external factor. If an action is motivated by outside factors, like peer pressure, consequences, or pay, then it is extrinsically motivated.

Ben is trying to save money to purchase a new vehicle. Ben has always wanted a sports car, so he starts working extra shifts to earn enough money. In this case, Ben is influenced by intrinsic motivation. He wants this car because it will bring him joy, without any other outside influences or reasons.

Other than achievement and affiliation, social motives also include things like cooperation, interaction, altruism, belonging, identity, and self-esteem.

Intrinsic Social MotivationDefinition
CooperationTwo or more people working together to achieve a goal, motivated either by internal or external factors (or both)
AltruismBy definition, altruistic behaviors are intrinsically motivated. They are motivated by an internal desire to help others rather than by any kind of personal gain.
BelongingThe desire to fit in or mesh well with a group, organization, society, or culture. Belonging is mostly intrinsically motivated, but it can also be encouraged by external factors.
IdentityThe intrinsic human desire to know and define what it means to be human. Existential theorists believe that every human being is intrinsically motivated to define their identity and find meaning in life.
ApprovalClosely connected to belonging, humans generally desire the approval of others, especially of those they admire or depend on. A desire for approval is generally intrinsically motivated, but external motivations can encourage us to seek more approval.
AvoidanceWe want to avoid pain and increase comfort. Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations play a role here, but the desire to avoid pain is intrinsic.
Self-esteemThe desire to think well of ourselves and make decisions based on our personal values and beliefs.
Autonomy

Autonomy is the desire to do something on one's initiative, which comes from within. A behavior that depends on external rewards has the least autonomy.

Curiosity

It refers to a person's internal desire to obtain new experiences and understand complex ideas, in addition to continuing to engage in activities that have piqued their interest.

Play or Fun

This innate drive refers to doing something because it's enjoyable. Seeking fun or play motivates a person to continue on a work or task.

Social Motivation a group of teen hands and feet in a circle on the grass StudySmarterAchievement and Affiliation, pixabay.com

The Importance of Social Motivation

Social motivations influence our decision-making. We face social conflicts when two or more of our social motivations contradict or compete with each other. Maybe we want to be seen as both helpful and independent. Maybe we want to be altruistic, but we also want to do something just for ourselves.

What happens when our own social motivations compete with each other? What if you and a friend both want to achieve the same thing, but there can only be one winner?

Social Motivation two men arm wrestling on a table with a pile of cash under their arms StudySmarterSocial Conflict, pixabay.com

Social Motivation Conflicts

Conflicts can make us feel upset and require us to make tough decisions. The four types of conflict in social motivation are the approach-approach conflict, the approach-avoidance conflict, the multiple approach-avoidance conflict, and the avoidance-avoidance conflict.

Approach-Approach Conflict

The approach-approach conflict happens when someone is presented with two positive choices and must choose between the two. For example, if someone gets to pick their dream car or a cash prize when winning sweepstakes, they are in an approach-approach conflict. The person is making a choice that benefits them no matter what they choose.

Jada has to decide if she wants to go to Hawaii or Italy for vacation with her friends on Spring break. Jada is facing an approach-approach social conflict because both outcomes are desirable.

Approach-Avoidance Conflict

The approach-avoidance conflict is when someone is faced with choices that have both positive and negative consequences. Someone may have found out that they have gluten intolerance. The choice is presented to the person to either eat bread with gluten to fulfill their craving and get sick or choose an alternative.

Kyle is at an amusement park with family and friends, and he has a severe fear of heights. Kyle's friends are all waiting in line for the newest, tallest rollercoaster in the park. Kyle decides to go on the ride even though he dislikes rollercoasters and heights. Kyle is influenced by external factors in his approach-avoidance conflict. Riding with his friends is desirable, but his fear of heights makes it undesirable at the same time.

Multiple Approach-Avoidance Conflict

The multiple approach-avoidance conflict is when someone is presented with a situation that has multiple solutions. Each of the solutions has its own negative and positive aspects.

Nolan is trying to lose weight, but he goes out with his friends every day to eat and must consider his options. He could continue going out to eat but risk being tempted by unhealthy foods. He could cook at home which would also save money but risk alienating his friends. He could work out and meal prep, but he would have to join a gym. In this situation, Nolan is in a multiple approach-avoidance conflict that is making it hard to make a decision.

Avoidance-Avoidance Conflict

The avoidance-avoidance conflict is when you are presented with two bad options that both have negative outcomes. You have to make a choice, but you feel bad about both options.

Harriot wants to take time off of work, but taking time off means she won't get paid. If she continues working without a break, she risks experiencing burnout. No matter what choice she makes, Harriot will lose something that she values.

Social Motivation - Key takeaways

  • Social motivation is a learned psychological process that is related to our society and cultural upbringing.
  • Two of the most relevant theories that relate to social motivation are Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and the Incentive Theory of Motivation.
  • The achievement and affiliation motives are the two main types of social motivation.
  • The four types of conflict in social motivation are the approach-approach conflict, the approach-avoidance conflict, the multiple approach-avoidance conflict, and the avoidance-avoidance conflict.
  • Other than achievement and affiliation, social motives also include things like cooperation, interaction, altruism, belonging, identity, and self-esteem.

Frequently Asked Questions about Social Motivation

Social motivation is the influence of social motives like achievement and affiliation on achieving social goals.

Humans are driven by social motivation because we learn through our societies and cultures to affiliate with others.

An example of social motivation is someone who is motivated to study for an exam because they want to achieve and receive praise from other people.

Social motivation is important because it is a determining factor in why humans behave the way they do.

The two main social motivations are affiliation and achievement.

Final Social Motivation Quiz

Question

______ _________ is how we are influenced or not influenced to perform well in front of other people.

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Answer

Social motivation

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Question

What is a desire to be successful through our actions or when taking on difficult tasks.?

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Answer

Achievement motive

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Question

What is a desire or longing to fit into a specific group?

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Answer

Affiliation motive

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Question

Social motivation in Psychology is based on what two main motives?

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Answer

Affiliation and achievement motives

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Question

A psychological test that gives people an opportunity to perceive pictures in a way that reveals their motivation and personality traits.

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Answer

Thematic Apperception Test (TAT).

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Question

What has been studied by psychologists throughout time as it involves human interaction and connection?


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Answer

Affiliation motive

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Question

The two types of social motivation are?

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Answer

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

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Question

 What is an internal desire or motive to complete a task?

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Answer

intrinsic motivation

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Question

What is the overjustification effect?

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Answer

should not be confused with extrinsic motivation. The effect happens when someone who has intrinsic motivation ends up being rewarded for their efforts, making the reward the focus of their motivation, rather than their enjoyment.

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Question

_______ _________ is when there is an external motive to complete a task.

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Answer

Extrinsic motivation

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Question

______ in social motivation is a result of having motives that contradict each other and interfere with your ability to reach a goal.

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Answer

Conflict

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Question

The four types of conflict in social motivation are

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Answer

the approach-approach conflict, the approach-avoidance conflict, the multiple approach-avoidance conflict, and the avoidance-avoidance conflict.


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Question

Happens when someone is presented with two positive choices and must choose between the two.

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Answer

Approach-approach conflict

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Question

What conflict happens when you are presented with two bad options that both have negative outcomes?

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Answer

Avoidance-avoidance conflict

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Question

When someone is faced with choices that have both positive and negative consequences.

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Answer

Approach-avoidance conflict

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