The Five Core Social Motives

Susan Fiske in a popular needs model has identified Five Core Social Motives , easily remembered by the acronym BUC(k)ET standing for (Belonging, Understanding, Controlling, Enhancing Self, and Trusting) . In this system, belonging is the root need, the essential core social motive. The others are all said to be in service to, facilitating, or making possible effective functioning in social groups.

I now, give detailed descriptions of each motive based on Fiske’s chapter in Motivated Social Perception book.

  1. Belonging: People are motivated to affiliate and bond with each other.
  2. Understanding: to belong , people are motivated to create an accurate-enough shared social understanding.
  3. Controlling:People are motivated to feel competitive and effective in their dealings with the animate and inanimate environment.
  4. Enhancing Self: Hoping that other will see you as socially worthy fits the core social motive of enhancing self.
  5. Trusting:Viewing the world as benevolent enables people to participate in many group activities without undue suspicion or vigilance.

I also came across an interesting paper that discusses many need theories. They have this to say about Fiske’s theory:

Based on a comprehensive literature review of a wide variety of writings on basic needs and motives, Stevens and Fiske (1995) argued that there was overall agreement on five basic needs. Fiske (2002; 2004) continued to develop and elaborate this set of basic needs, or core social motives, using the BUC(K)ET acronym as a mnemonic device for the five motives: Belonging, Understanding, Controlling, Enhancing Self, and Trusting (leaving the K for students to play with if they would like to imagine a sixth motive). In this system, belonging is the root need, the essential core social motive. The others are all said to be in service to, facilitating, or making possible effective functioning in social groups.

As implied by its name, this theory is specifically designed to apply to needs that arise in social settings. “Core Social Motives describe fundamental, underlying psychological processes that impel people’s thinking, feeling, and behaving in situations involving other people” (Fiske, 2004, p. 14). A basic assumption of this theory is that underlying all of the basic needs is an evolutionary process that has led to these characteristics of human nature because they promote survival of the individual through belonging in groups. Although this kind of imagined evolutionary, survival-oriented thinking is not logically a required aspect of a theory of basic needs with a root need structure, in fact such thinking has been employed in the development of all three of the root need theories.

I am compelled to chalk the five social motives in terms of the first five developmental tasks.

  1. Belongingness. In the absence of bonding and affiliating with other people, one would not be able to acquire the feelings of trust necessary to operate smoothly in society.
  2. Understanding: When people create accurate-enough shared social understanding they are not hounded by feelings of doubt and shame in relation to social relationships and society functioning.
  3. Controlling: By feeling competitive and effective in dealing with one’s animate and inanimate environment one can generate positive feelings of initiative in relation to social functioning and void any guilt over ineffectiveness.
  4. Enhancing Self: If others see one as socially worthy, then this gives rise to feelings of industry.
  5. Trusting: One needs a trusting environment to be able to brood over subtle questions like those of personal identity.

The core Social Motives seems to be a very promising theory that lets us analyse motives and needs at the social level of analysis . As such it deserves greater attention from the research community.

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