Social needs are the third tier of needs on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. They refer to the need that humans have for social interaction and community engagement in order to thrive.
Social needs are also referred to as ‘love and belonging needs’. Examples include love, intimacy, friendship, family, feedback, acceptance, and belonging.
Once people’s physiological and safety needs are met, Maslow believes people need to have their social needs covered. By socializing, humans can feel more fulfilled and connected to their ‘tribe’.
Examples of Social Needs
People need to feel loved for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it helps to boost self-esteem and confidence. When we feel loved, we feel valued and worth spending time with.
This sense of self-worth is essential for maintaining healthy relationships, both personal and professional.
Secondly, feeling loved helps to reduce stress and anxiety. Knowing that someone cares about us and wants to be with us can help to calm our nerves and ease our worries.
Thirdly, feeling loved simply makes us happy. When we are surrounded by people who love and care for us, we can’t help but smile and enjoy life just a little bit more. So why do people need to feel loved? Because it helps them to be their best selves.
People need to feel a sense of belonging for similar reasons as they need to feel love. First and foremost, it helps with self-esteem and confidence. When we feel like we belong somewhere, we feel valued and worth spending time with.
Examples of things that help give us a sense of belonging include our families, friends, co-workers, and any clubs or organizations we are a part of. For example, children often feel a sense of belonging in their classroom. They know everyone in the class and feel a sense of togetherness with them.
Team sports like football and baseball similarly give that sense of belonging. In fact, even fans can get that sense that they belong to the crowd.
Intimacy is a close, emotional connection with another person. It is often used in reference to romantic relationships but can also refer to any close, platonic relationship.
When we feel close to someone and they make us feel special, we can’t help but feel good about ourselves.
Physical intimacy, such as hugs and hand-holding also releases oxytocin, which is known as the ‘cuddle hormone’. Oxytocin has a number of benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, increasing self-esteem, and making us feel happy.
Friendship is a close, platonic relationship between two people. Friendships are often built on shared interests and experiences.
Having friends is important for a number of reasons. First, friends provide us with support, both emotional and practical. They are there for us when we need them and help us to get through tough times.
Second, friends help us to feel connected and a part of something. When we have friends, we feel like we belong somewhere and that we are valued. Being a part of a close friendship group can give people social confidence and a sense of self-worth.
Third, friends help us to have fun and enjoy life. They are the people we can relax with and have a good time.
Family is the closest social group we will have in our lives. Families are made up of blood relatives, such as parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. But they may also be adopted families who have taken someone in as their own.
For most people, their family is the first social group they are a part of. Families provide us with love, support, and a sense of belonging. They are the people we can always count on, no matter what.
Families can also help to shape our personalities and who we become as adults. For example, if we have a close, loving family, we are more likely to be trusting and confident. If our family is more distant or dysfunctional, we may have difficulty forming close relationships with others.
A community is a group of people who share a common interest or live in the same area. Traditionally, we think of a community as a group of people who live in the same area, such as a village. However, in today’s globalized culture, they can be large, like a group of people who share the same subculture or hobby.
Being a part of a community can provide us with a sense of belonging to a group of people who share something in common with us. It can also give us a sense of purpose and help us to feel like we are part of something larger than ourselves.
Communities can also provide support, both practical and emotional. For example, if we are going through a tough time financially, our church community might pitch in to help out.
7. Receiving Feedback
Receiving feedback, whether it is positive or negative, is an important benefit of social interaction. By interacting with others, we can look for cues about what hasn’t been effective and what works well in our behaviors.
Similarly, people can give us constructive feedback about our strengths and weaknesses. We can then work on our weaknesses or rely more on our strengths in life.
Feedback can also help us to feel more connected to others. When we feel like we are being heard and understood, we can’t help but feel good about ourselves.
We need to feel accepted by others to feel good about ourselves. Acceptance is when someone understands and values us for who we are.
When we feel accepted, we feel like we belong somewhere and that we are valued. This sense of belonging can be very important for our mental health and well-being.
Acceptance can also help us to feel more confident and secure in ourselves. We are more likely to take risks and be creative when we feel accepted by others.
9. Clan or Tribe Membership
A clan is a close-knit group of people who have a common ancestor. A tribe is a larger social group that is made up of several clans.
In many cultures, clan or tribe membership is very important. It can provide us with a sense of identity and belonging. It can also give us a sense of security and protection.
Clan or tribe membership can also help us to feel connected to our heritage and culture. This connection can give us a sense of pride and belonging.
Examples of How Humans Meet Their Social Needs
10. Gang Membership
Young people who don’t get their social needs met in any other way (such as at home or school) may turn to gangs for a sense of love and belonging. Gangs can provide a sense of family and community that is often lacking in other areas of their life.
In order to belong to a gang, members typically have to go through a initiation process. This can involve proving their loyalty to the gang by committing an act of violence or crime. Once they are in, they often have to follow certain rules, such as not being allowed to quit.
Gang members often have a sense of pride in their membership. They might get tattoos of the gang’s symbols and often dress in a certain way to identify themselves as members.
Once you’re a member of a gang, a youth may receive the group protections and satisfaction of belonging to a tight-knit social group that they were craving.
11. Attending Sporting Events
Going to a football game with the family is another example of how the family can bond. The energy of the atmosphere can create a tremendous sense of excitement. When all the fans cheer at the same time, or do the wave, people will feel a connection with the other 70,000 fans in attendance.
It is also an opportunity for the parents to teach their children about the game. Most sports have a lot of rules and sometimes those rules can be a bit complicated. When a parent explains the rules to their child it makes them feel important and helps them fulfill their parental obligations.
Children also benefit. Not only do they learn something about the game, but more importantly, it helps them see how much their parents care about them. Children are more perceptive of these dynamics than we think.
12. Political Affiliations
Political parties usually consist of a lot of people. These parties often have frequent gatherings that include fund-raising events and rallies. When attending these events, the individual members can get a tremendous sense of being part of something larger.
There will be opportunities to interact with others, to share opinions and ideals. When others agree and affirm our views, we feel closer to them. The psychological distance between two people that started out as strangers quickly narrows.
There also may be times of crisis, such as a scandal or a drop in the polls. A crisis is a very emotionally-charged moment and when people are experiencing the same emotions, they feel more connected to each other.
13. Marriage and Family Counseling
Unfortunately, sometimes a family can have difficulties. There can be many causes of marital discord, and that discord will affect the whole family. Lots of arguments creates a cold feeling in the home and family members can feel alone and isolated.
For this reason, many families seek counseling. A trained therapist can have many years of experience listening to the problems that families face. Over time they will have acquired valuable insights into family dynamics and can offer an objective point of view.
If family members are committed and are willing to express their inner-most thoughts, an experienced therapist can help. Therapy sessions are opportunities for family members to rebuild the strong emotional bonds that brought them together at one time.
BIRG stands for “Basking in Reflected Glory.” It basically means experiencing joy and pride in the accomplishment of another person. The closer that person is to us, the stronger the feeling.
For example, having a close friend that has just won a tennis championship can make us feel great. Even though we did not win anything, we can still feel a sense of pride because of our connection with the champion.
However, if a complete stranger wins, there is not much in it for us. We don’t benefit because we have no deep, personal connection to them.
15. Employee Engagement Activities
Employment offers many opportunities to fulfill one’s need to establish friendships and develop a sense of belonging. For example, HR departments organize company events on a regular basis. These include birthday parties, outdoor picnics, departmental sporting events, and team-building activities.
These activities help employees bond with each other and foster the development of a cohesive organizational culture. Thus, satisfying one aspect of Maslow’s level three.
Over time, people will feel more committed to the company. This commitment creates a strong sense of belonging. They become fully committed to the company and sometimes even sacrifice aspects of their personal lives. Some employees may even incorporate the brand’s image into their self-identify.
16. The Super Fan
In the world of collegiate and professional sports, it is common for fans to buy shirts and jerseys that represent their favorite team. A lot of fans might also have memorabilia at home, such as a framed jersey, a helmet, or a team poster.
A super fan takes this to another level. They are extremely enthusiastic and will engage in numerous behaviors that highlight their loyalty to the team. This can include attending every home game for years and even decades.
Going to a game involves wearing several items of clothing related to the team, such as special pants, hair, and shoes. They might even get a tattoo of the team logo. These are examples of behavior that help a fan create a sense of belonging with the team.
17. Facebook and other Social Media
Facebook started out with the explicit goal of creating an online community. The goal was to offer people a place where they could interact with each other, share photos and videos, and establish personal connections with people no matter where they were.
As of April 2022, the platform had nearly 3 billion users. It is the most popular example of social media on the internet and one of the world’s most profitable companies.
The main reason it has been such a huge success is because it taps into one of the most fundamental and enduring needs that people have: to form an emotional connection with others.
Citizens of most countries have a strong sense of pride. Even when their country is poor and rife with political corruption, people still feel devoted. Nationalism is when individuals of a given nation care a great deal about their country and their national identity.
One example of nationalism occurs during holidays that signify the country’s date of independence. The celebration can involve a lot of flag waving and singing of the national anthem. Typical meals are prepared and common phrases exalting the country can be heard throughout the day; for example, “Viva la Peru.”
Sometimes nationalism can be so extreme that the citizens believe their country is superior to other nations and its culture and interests should be promoted over all others.
Nationalism is an excellent example of belonging in Maslow’s hierarchy.
Read Also: 14 Types of Nationalism
19. Ethnic Identity
Ethnic identity refers to one’s close identification with their cultural background. The characteristics of that culture are internalized into the person’s self-identity and is well-ingrained in their consciousness.
There is often a great sense of pride in their ethnicity and an admiration for key elements of the culture. Some examples include extolling the values of the ethnicity, wearing traditional clothes and preparing traditional meals.
Examples of ethnic identity in the U.S. are when people state that they are: African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American, or Italian-American.
When people have a strong sense of their ethnic identity it is a way to satisfy the need of belonging. Identifying with a larger cultural group makes people feel included and have a social identify that they can be proud of.
Spending time in the great outdoors with the family is just one way of bringing the family together. This is especially important in modern times when everyone is busy pursuing individual interests and staring at an electronic device.
Parents are often consumed with their careers and may only see their spouse and children for a few hours each day during the week. That time is usually absorbed by carrying out household tasks such as paying bills, preparing meals, or cleaning.
However, taking the family on a camping trip means that everyone will be with each other nearly every second of the day. Doing activities together, like setting up the tent or going fishing, gives everyone the same goal and helps create a bonding moment. Camping is a great way to meet what Maslow referred to as love and belonging needs.
Social Needs in Popular Culture and Media
21. Forrest Gump
Movies and literary works often contain storylines that are consistent with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Writers will incorporate conflicts or relationships that tap into the most basic and essential needs of human beings, such as the need to survive or be loved.
The movie Forrest Gump is an excellent example of a story that shows how friendship can play a significant role in our lives. Throughout the movie, the main character meets a new friend, and then that person goes on to impact him in a very meaningful way.
There are countless examples of movies that convey how love, friendship and a sense of belonging are central to happiness.
22. Beer Commercials
Advertisers are well-versed in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Just about every commercial on television can be analyzed in terms of his theory. Watching the stream of Super Bowl ads is like taking an introductory course in the psychology of marketing.
For example, beer commercials almost always contain scenes of friends gathered together and having a great time. There are lots of smiling faces and everyone likes each other.
It’s almost as if the ad is trying to tell you that if you drink their beer, you will have lots of friends. You will be part of a happy and cheerful group that get together and enjoy life to its fullest.
Definition of Social Needs
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs also includes a component about social needs. Level three in his theory is labeled Love and Belonging. At this level, after lower order needs are met, people want to have connections with others.
Those connections can be with family and friends, or coworkers and fellow members of the same club or organization. When people are in a group, they often feel a sense of value as a result of positive interactions. Being liked by others makes us feel good.
Maslow also included sexual intimacy in this level. The intense feeling of closeness with a loved one that intimacy brings is also important to people’s psychological health and well-being.
Other Needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy
Maslow’s hierarchy includes the following needs, from most to least important:
- Physiological needs – these are the basic needs for survival and include air, food, water, shelter, clothing, and reproduction. They need to be met before an individual can focus on higher-level needs.
- Safety needs – once physiological needs are met, individuals seek to feel safe and secure. This may include financial security, personal safety, and health.
- Social needs (Love and belonging) – after meeting basic needs and feeling safe, individuals need to feel a sense of love, belonging, and connection. This may come from family, friends, romantic relationships, and a sense of community.
- Esteem needs (self-esteem and esteem from others) – once individuals feel they belong, they need to feel good about themselves and have the respect of others. This can include self-esteem, achievement, and recognition.
- Self-actualization needs – this is the final level of need and is about self-fulfillment and self-actualization. This may include creativity, morality, problem-solving, and a sense of purpose.
People are social animals. Since the beginning of time, we have felt a need to be with others. Interacting with other people, sharing joyful moments and enduring heartbreaking difficulties helps establish a strong emotional bond between people.
In modern times, these needs manifest themselves in numerous ways. People join social clubs and political parties, and attend sporting events along with thousands of others.
Human beings will even try to establish friendships with people on the other side of the planet for which they will likely never meet in person. Having close-knit bonds with others is so important that when a relationship is at risk, people will hire trained professionals to help them rebuild that connection.
It seems that Maslow was spot-on when he identified love and belonging needs as a critically important need that all human beings strive to meet.
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review,50(4), 370-96.
Benjamin, P. and Looby, J. (1998), Defining the Nature of Spirituality in the Context of Maslow’s and Rogers’s Theories. Counseling and Values, 42: 92-100. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-007X.1998.tb00414.x
Benson, S.G. and Dundis, S.P. (2003), Understanding and motivating health care employees: integrating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, training and technology. Journal of Nursing Management, 11: 315-320. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2834.2003.00409.x
Cialdini, R. B., Borden, R. J., Thorne, A., Walker, M. R., Freeman, S., & Sloan, L. R. (1976). Basking in reflected glory: Three (football) field studies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34(3), 366–375. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.1246
Davies, J. C. (1991). Maslow and Theory of Political Development: Getting to Fundamentals. Political Psychology, 12(3), 389–420. https://doi.org/10.2307/3791750
Fiedhawatie, S. D. (2013). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Manifested by the Main Character in the Forrest Gump the Movie. Jurnal Ilmiah Mahasiswa Fakultas Ilmu Budaya Universitas Brawijaya, 1(5).
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.