Social Needs and Learning

I have been reading up on theories about social needs, and my favorite one so far is Baumeister and Leary’s 1995 article” The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation.”  It is a tad long, so be forewarned.  What Baumeister and Leary do in this article is to survey the empirical research in the fields of psychology, sociology, and ethnography to provide evidence for the theory of what is known as belongingness. They state, “the belongingness hypothesis is that human beings have a pervasive drive to form and maintain at least a minimum quantity of lasting, positive, and significant interpersonal relationships (497).” They go on to describe that the ways that we fulfill these needs is through frequent, pleasant interactions with other people that are sustained over time. Additionally, these interactions should be with other people with which we have a mutual concern for one another’s welfare.

The evidence that the authors provide is interesting, varied, and compelling. They note instances where one or more aspects of the belongingness need is not met and the negative outcomes people endure on the emotional, physical, and cognitive level.  The reverse is noted when belongingness needs are met.

There are good many questions I have as a result of thinking through this. It seems to me that there are lots of ways that technology might meet belongingness needs, and the language around social networks as communities is intriguing to me as a possible place where these needs are being met.  But how often is enough to meet the beloningness need? What is the threshold for interactions? What about the quality of the interaction: is an @ reply on twitter enough? There are different levels of investment we have in one another on these spaces that are interesting.

I also can’t help but read this with my professional developer hat on. I have wondered in the past if part of the lack of technology integration by teachers might be because of a fear of taking the risk to change their practices. Would creating a community around quelling that fear help improve technology integration outcomes? Is it that teachers who routinely utilize technology in their practice have a community to which they belong that meets the needs that others don’t have? Practically, a community might be able to think through logistical issues or offer inspiration. More distantly, having a trusted community that fulfilled belongingness needs might reduce the stress of changing an established teaching practice to include more technology.

The article:

Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, L.R. (1995). The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal  Attachment as a Fundamental Human Motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-539. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497

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3 thoughts on “Social Needs and Learning

  1. Schoolwork update: Social Needs and Learning #phdchat

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  2. I think technology is creating a fascinating variable in our interpersonal relationships. I feel social media/forums are providing excellent support mechanisms for people with similar interests and fulfilling our need for frequent and pleasant interactions. I do think this same technology is preventing the development of relationships that create value. Our core group of interpersonal relationships where we receive the greatest value is more personal and requires interaction in person. This value can be lost and that is why some do not embrace the technology. I often wonder how many opportunities are lost to strengthen relationships as we begin to feel social media is doing the work for us? Thanks for the read Andrea!

    • Hi Mike,
      There are indeed a lot of questions when considering the role social media is playing in fulfilling these needs to belong. The cost of interacting on social media is very low (it’s quick, asynchronous, I don’t have to get dressed or leave my house), but it seems that, based on what people say about it, and my own use of social media, that social media spaces allow for social camaraderie in a way that was very hard to maintain before.
      Great points and questions: thanks for the comments :)

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