Published on July 20, 2021

5 Reasons Why Affiliation Motivation Is Important

5 Reasons Why Affiliation Motivation Is Important

“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”

Have you heard of this quote before? Social behavior is contagious. Maybe you want to believe you have your own will and you’re completely independent of the people around you, but the truth is that we are human beings, and we want to belong. It’s called affiliation motivation. It’s the urge to have personal relationships with other people and to feel like you belong to a group or community.

Even though it’s hard to admit when our ego gets in the way, we want to be liked, and we’ll often go along with whatever the group is doing just for that feeling of belonging. It’s often not a conscious thing. We don’t actively think: “I will do what they do because I want them to like me.” No, it’s our subconscious need for affiliation that drives us to automatically copy the behavior of the people around us.

The “Three Needs Theory”

David McClelland expounds on this subconscious need for affiliation in his “Three Needs Theory,” especially in the context of a workplace. Here, he categorizes these needs into three:[1]

  1. The need for achievement
  2. The need for affiliation
  3. The need for power

You might think it’s obvious that we want to achieve our goals in life and track our progress, that we want to feel somewhat powerful like we have things under control, and that we enjoy winning. But it’s the need for affiliation that happens most subconsciously.

  • Did you ever cross your arms during a conversation with your friend, only to realize he’s sitting with his arms crossed as well? Whoops, affiliation motivation.
  • Did you ever just follow the crowd when trying to find the exit of a building but you had no clue where you were going? Whoops, affiliation motivation.
  • Did you ever decide to be kind to someone who belongs to the team while you actually couldn’t stand this person? Whoops, affiliation motivation.

We all feel these three types of needs, but one might be stronger for you than the others.


Do You Have a Strong Need for Affiliation?

You have a high motivation for affiliation if you recognize yourself in the majority of these statements:

  • You love working in groups.
  • You seem to easily blend in.
  • People tend to like you from the start.
  • You prefer collaborating instead of competing.
  • You avoid high-risk situations and uncertainty.
  • You like spending time socializing and networking.
  • You might feel a strong desire to be liked and loved.

Are you feeling like this is a bad thing? Like you want to be more independent and unaffected by others? Let me show you five reasons why affiliation motivation is actually important. We wouldn’t be able to survive as a society without this need for affiliation. Read on to learn why.

5 Reasons Why Affiliation Motivation Is Important

Here are the five reasons why affiliation motivation is important and how it actually benefits you.

1. Affiliation Motivation Is Necessary for Teamwork

When you have a high need for affiliation, you will automatically fit well into any group setting. You’ll be more adaptive, and you won’t try to stand out, be the leader, or be different. People will call you ‘the glue’ of the group because you think of everyone’s good. Being the middle man comes naturally to you as you know how to take everyone’s needs and wants into account and make sure everyone’s getting along well.

We all want to feel involved in some way, to feel part of a community, and to feel like we get our team’s approval. We are social creatures, after all. So, whether your need for affiliation is high or low, you will find it important to feel like you bring value to a group.

If you are higher in the other needs, don’t worry. Every group needs a leader who has a higher need for power to take the group in the right direction. If your need for achievement is the highest, you will be the team player who encourages everyone to create an efficient plan to reach the group’s goals and measure the group’s achievements.


2. You Develop a Higher Social Intelligence

Bonding with others and maintaining good relationships requires a higher level of social intelligence. You create this ability to almost feel what others are thinking and adapt to them. People with a high need for affiliation often have a more advanced level of empathy. You just know how to talk to people and make them happy. And more importantly, apart from easily making new contacts, you know how to sustain them.

If your need for affiliation is high, you’ll feel very good at networking events. You’ll also be the perfect employee for jobs in customer service or any other job with a high level of social interaction. People naturally feel good around you. You know how to maintain a healthy relationship.

If your need for power is higher, people will tend to look up to you, respect you, and see you as their leader. You will naturally act more from a place of authority. If you have a high need for achievement, people will see you more as the competitive person of the group, which can negatively influence the feeling of connectedness.

3. Affiliation Can Affect Your Healthy Habits

Research shows that increasing similarity between spouses in their health behaviors after marriage positively affects their marital satisfaction.[2] The reason both spouses are happier when they copy each other’s healthy habits is that they’re satisfying each other’s affiliation needs.

The same counts for your group of friends, your colleagues, family members, or roommates. If your friend is a heavy drinker, you’re more likely to increase your intake of alcohol as well. Luckily, the opposite is also true. If you’re eating healthy and taking good care of yourself, you’ll see you will positively influence the people who are close to you.

Our need for affiliation can be so big that we are willing to adopt unhealthy behavior just to belong to a group, even when we know it’s not good for us. Our subconscious mind and our instinctual drive to belong are bigger than our conscious thought process.


Whether you have a very strong need for affiliation or not, this advice counts for everyone: Choose wisely who you spend your time with.

4. Bonding With Others Is a Natural Remedy Against Anxiety

During stressful situations, our need for affiliation increases. Think of the biggest world events and how people all of the sudden take initiative to come together, create a new hashtag, gather donations, and support one another.

When stress is high, we tend to put our differences aside and look for that feeling of unity. We come together and find security with one another. Anxiety decreases when you feel connected to others, knowing they are going through the same situation, feeling the same fears, or understand what you’re going through.

When you connect to a group, you somehow forget about the racing thoughts and fears rushing through your head because you’re part of a greater whole. At that moment, you are the group, not just your own being.

5. Affiliation Makes Us Want to Give Back

It’s the connection and trust we feel towards others that makes us feel like we want to give back whenever they do something nice for us. This sense of reciprocity builds more trust, confidence, and fairness in the relationship, and it’s deeply ingrained in our natural reactions.

Without our need for affiliation, we wouldn’t enjoy it so much when others do something nice for us, and vice versa, we wouldn’t feel that instant urge to give back and be liked and loved by others. Giving makes us happy because we know we’ll be accepted, appreciated, and loved by the other person.


Start to Fulfill Your Need for Affiliation!

Now that you understand that affiliation motivation isn’t just about fitting into the group or wanting to be liked by others but about teamwork, social intelligence, physical health, anxiety, and reciprocity, how can you actively fulfill your need for affiliation?

Here are eight quick tips you can start implementing today!

  1. Do something nice for someone.
  2. Choose wisely who you spend your time with.
  3. Dare to share your fears with others. They might feel the same way!
  4. Join a community that has the same interest like a book club, a language exchange, a hiking club, etc.
  5. Play a game that involves teamwork with your best friends like a treasure hunt!
  6. Find a healthy buddy and team up to change your eating habits, or start exercising together, or start a meditation course.
  7. Tell your friends and family why you appreciate them. Try to get comfortable with mentioning your appreciation more often.
  8. Give hugs!

Follow these tips and start to fulfill your need for affiliation!

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via


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Maya Lombarts

Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach and founder of Healthy High Achievers

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Published on September 27, 2021

What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work?

What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work?

We’ve all needed a bit of inspiration at some time in our lives. In the past year or two, that need most likely has grown. Who hasn’t been trying to shed those extra pounds we put on during the pandemic? Who hasn’t felt the need to fake a little enthusiasm at joining yet another Zoom call? Who hasn’t been trying to get excited about trekking back into the office for a 9 to 5 (longer if you add in the commute)? Feeling “meh” is a sign of our times. So, too, is incentive motivation, a way to get back our spark, our drive, and our pursuit of the things we say we want most.

In this article, I’ll talk about what incentive motivation is and how it works.

What Is Incentive Motivation?

Incentive motivation is an area of study in psychology focused on human motivation. What is it that gets us to go from couch potato to running a marathon? What spurs us to get the Covid vaccine—or to forgo it? What is it that influences us to think or act in a certain way? Incentive motivation is concerned with the way goals influence behavior.[1] By all accounts, it works if the incentive being used holds significance for the person.

The Roots of Incentive Motivation

Incentive motivation’s roots can be traced back to when we were children. I’m sure many of us have similar memories of being told to “eat all our veggies” so that we would “grow up to be big and strong,” and if we did eat those veggies, we would be rewarded with a weekend trip to a carnival or amusement park or playground of choice. The incentive of that outing was something we wanted enough to have it influence our behavior.


Growing up, incentive motivation continues to play a major role in what we choose to do. For example, while we may not have relished the idea of spending years studying, getting good grades, pursuing advanced degrees, and graduating with sizeable debt from student loans, a great many of us decided to do just that. Why? Because the end goal of a career, a coveted title, and the associated incentives of financial reward and joy in doing something we love were powerful motivators.

One researcher who believes in the power of incentive motivation is weight management expert, co-author of the book State of Slim, and co-founder of the transformational weight loss program of the same name, Dr. Holly Wyatt. Her work with her clients has proven time and again that when motivation fizzles, incentives can reignite those motivational fires.

“Eat more veggies, exercise, keep track of my weight: These things and more DO work, but bottom line, you gotta keep doing them. Setting up rituals and routines to put your efforts on auto-pilot is one way. And along the way, the use of both external and internal motivators helps keep people on track. External motivation sources are those things outside of ourselves that help to motivate us. They’re powerful, like pouring gasoline on a fire. But they may not last very long. Internal motivators are more tied into the reasons WHY we want to reach our goals. In my State of Slim weight loss program, we spend a lot of time on what I call ‘peeling back the onion’ to find the WHY. I think the internal motivators are more powerful, especially for the long-term, but they may take longer to build. They’re the hot coals that keep our motivational fires burning.”

Examples of Incentive Motivation

In the way of incentive motivation, specific to the external motivators, Dr. Wyatt challenges her clients to commit to changing just one behavior that will help them reach their weight loss goals. Clients must then agree to a “carrot” or a “stick” as either their reward for accomplishing what they say they will do or as their punishment for falling short. Those incentives might be something like enjoying a spa day if they do the thing they said they would do or sweating it out while running up and down the stairwell of their apartment building a certain number of times as punishment for not following through.


Whatever they choose, the goal must be something they really want, and the incentive must be something that matters to them enough to influence their behaviors in reaching those goals. Some people are more motivated by some sort of meaningful reward (a carrot) whereas, other people are more motivated by some sort of negative consequence or the taking away of a privilege (the stick).

Another example of incentive motivation is playing out currently with companies and government entities offering perks to people who get the Covid vaccine. Nationwide, offers are being made in the way of lottery tickets, cash prizes, concert seats, free admission to events and discounts for food, and even free drink at local restaurants and bars. The list of incentives being offered to the public to increase vaccination rates is pretty extensive and quite creative.[2]  These incentives are financial, social, and even hit on moral sensibilities. But is this particular incentive motivation working?

Remember that a key to incentive motivation working is if the individual puts importance on the reward being received on the ultimate goal. So, not all incentives will motivate people in the same way. According to Stephen L. Franzoi, “The value of an incentive can change over time and in different situations.”[3]

How Does Incentive Motivation Differ from Other Types of Motivators?

Incentive motivation is just one type of motivating force that relies on external factors. While rewards are powerful tools in influencing behaviors, a few other options may be more aligned with who you are and what gets you moving toward your goals.


Fear Motivation

In many ways, being motivated by fear is the very opposite of being motivated by incentives. Rather than pursuing some reward, it’s the avoidance of some consequence or painful punishment that sparks someone into action. For example, married couples may “forsake all others” not out of love or commitment but out of a fear that they may be “taken to the cleaners” by their spouses if their infidelities are revealed.

Another example wherein fear becomes the great motivator is one we’re hearing about more and more as we’re coming out of this pandemic—the fear of being poor. The fear of being poor has kept many people in jobs they hate. It’s only now that we see a reversal as headlines are shining a light on just how many workers are quitting and refusing to go back to the way things were.

Social Motivation

Human beings are social creatures. The desire to belong is a powerful motivator. This type of social motivation sparks one’s behavior in ways that, hopefully, result in an individual being accepted by a certain group or other individuals.

The rise of the Internet and the explosion of social media engagement has been both positive and negative in its power to motivate us to be included among what during our school days would be called “the cool kids” or “cliques” (jocks, nerds, artsy, gamers, etc.). We probably all have experienced at one time or another the feelings associated with “not being chosen”—whether to be on a team to play some game or as the winning candidate for some job or competition. Social rejection can make or break us.


Before You Get Up and Go…

Know that, especially during these challenging times, it’s “normal” and very much “okay” to feel a lack of motivation. Know, too, that external motivators, such as those we’ve talked about in this article, can be great tools to get your spark back. We’ve only touched on a few here. There are many more—both external and internal.

Remember that these external motivators, such as incentive motivations, are only as powerful as the importance placed on the reward by the individual. It’s also important to note that if there isn’t an aligned internal motivation, the results will more than likely be short-lived.

For example, losing a certain amount of weight because you want to fit into some outfit you intend to wear at some public event may get you to where you want to be. But will it hold up after your party? Or will those pounds find their way back to you? If you want to be rewarded at work with that trip to the islands because you’ve topped the charts in sales and hustle to make your numbers, will you be motivated again and again for that same incentive? Or will you need more and more to stay motivated?

Viktor Frankl, the 20th-century psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and author of the best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is quoted as having said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” As important as external motivators like incentives may be in influencing behaviors, the key is always to align them with one’s internal “why”—only then will the results be long-lived.


So, how might incentive motivation influence you and your behavior toward goals? Knowing your answer might keep you energized no matter what your journey and help to further your successes.

Featured photo credit: Atharva Tulsi via


[1] Britannica: Incentive motivation
[2] National Governors Association: COVID-19 Vaccine Incentives
[3] verywellmind: The Incentive Theory of Motivation

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