The Innate Drive for Human Connections and the Influence of Social Exclusion on this Fundamental Desire

Have you ever found yourself feeling strangely alone even in the midst of a crowd, surrounded yet somehow isolated? It’s a universal experience, a nudge from our brain signaling the inherent desire for interpersonal connections. In these moments of loneliness, our very nature prompts us to seek the comforting embrace of others, recognizing the profound impact of human connection on our wellbeing.

The insightful study by Maner and colleagues (2007) aptly notes, “People seek social connection with others to combat feelings of loneliness and isolation.” This resonates deeply with our fundamental need for connection, emphasizing that the quest for social bonds is not just a whim but an ingrained response to the yearning within us.

Now, imagine a world where our interactions with others go beyond mere exchanges – where they transform into powerful bonds, shaping the very fabric of our emotions, thoughts, and actions. Today, we embark on a journey to explore the intricate dynamics of social exclusion and its profound influence on our motivation to forge new connections. Amidst the complexities of this exploration, what shines through is the resilient spirit that resides within us, an unyielding force that craves belonging and beckons us to build meaningful ties with those around us.

The Need to Belong: A Fundamental Human Motivation

In the intricate tapestry of human psychology, a fundamental need emerges – the need to belong. This isn’t just a desire; it’s a powerful, pervasive motivation that influences our emotional patterns and cognitive processes. Studies indicate that individuals effortlessly develop social connections in diverse circumstances, displaying a tendency to resist the dissolution of pre-existing bonds. The absence of these connections, the lack of belongingness, is linked to adverse effects on health and overall wellbeing.

Ostracism: A Journey Through Reflexion and Resignation

In the last 15 years, there’s been increased research on ostracism, driven by a renewed interest in the importance of belonging in human social behavior. Williams (2009) proposed a model with three stages of reacting to ostracism: (a) immediate, (b) reflective, and (c) resignation. The initial pain response triggers threats to fundamental needs, leading to contemplation and coping responses. However, prolonged ostracism depletes resources, causing resignation, alienation, helplessness, and depression.

Social Hunger and Selective Memory: A Connection Explored

Just as physical hunger influences selective memory for food, social hunger – the unmet need for belongingness – is said to result in selective memory for socially relevant stimuli. In a recent study that explored simulated rejection experiences, participants displayed selective memory for explicitly social events. This research delves into the cognitive implications of the pervasive need to belong, revealing how unmet belongingness needs shape the way we retain social information.

The Social Reconnection Hypothesis: Forging Bonds Beyond Exclusion

In the face of social exclusion, the human spirit reveals a remarkable trait – the motivation to forge new social bonds. A recent study investigating the social reconnection hypothesis suggests that the experience of exclusion fuels a heightened desire to establish connections with new sources of potential affiliation. Individuals express a greater interest in making friends, collaborating with others, and forming positive impressions of novel social targets. The findings underscore the resilience within us, emphasizing that exclusion doesn’t break our spirits but fuels our determination to reconnect.

Overcoming Exclusion: Unveiling Aggression as a Response

When faced with social exclusion, individuals don’t just seek reconnection; they may also exhibit aggressive behavior. Research shows that excluded individuals behave more aggressively, issuing negative evaluations and engaging in aversive outbursts. Interestingly, this aggression is specific to social exclusion and not mediated by emotion, highlighting the unique and intricate interplay between exclusion and aggressive responses.


In the fabric of human experience, the impact of social exclusion is a thread that weaves its way through our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Yet, in the face of exclusion, we discover an indomitable spirit – a resilience that drives us not only to reconnect but also to forge new bonds with unwavering determination. Let this be a reminder that our innate need to belong is a force that not only shapes our individual journeys but also connects us in the shared human experience of building meaningful connections.



Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497–529.

Gardner, W. L., Pickett, C. L., & Brewer, M. B. (2000). Social Exclusion and Selective Memory: How the Need to belong Influences Memory for Social Events. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 26(4), 486–496. 

Maner, J. K., DeWall, C. N., Baumeister, R. F., & Schaller, M. (2007). Does Social Exclusion Motivate Interpersonal Reconnection? Resolving the “Porcupine Problem.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(1), 42–55. 

Powers, K. E., & Heatherton, T. F. (2012). Characterizing socially avoidant and affiliative responses to social exclusion. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 6, 46–46.

Twenge, J. M., Baumeister, R. F., Tice, D. M., & Stucke, T. S. (2001). If You Can’t Join Them, Beat Them: Effects of Social Exclusion on Aggressive Behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(6), 1058–1069.

Williams, K. D. (2009). Chapter 6 Ostracism. In Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 41, pp. 275–314). Elsevier Science & Technology.