Family Matters: Rethinking the Psychology of Human Social Motivation

Ahra Ko, Cari M. Pick, Jung Yul Kwon, Michael Barlev, Jaimie Arona Krems, Michael E. W. Varnum, Rebecca Neel, Mark Peysha, Watcharaporn Boonyasiriwat, Eduard Brandstätter, Julio Eduardo Cruz Vasquez, Oscar Galindo, Daniel David, Renata Pereira de Felipe, Ana Crispim, Velichko Fetvadjiev, Ronald Fischer, Johannes Karl, Silvia Galdi, Luis Gomez-JacintoIgor Grossmann, Pelin Gul, Takeshi Hamamura, Shihui Han, Hidefumi Hitokoto, Martina Hřebíčková, Sylvie Graf, Jennifer Lee Johnson, Oksana Malanchuk, Asuka Murata, Jinkyung Na, Jiaqing O, Muhammed Rizwan, Eric Roth, Sergio Antonio Salgado Salgado, A. Timur Sevincer, Adrian Stanciu, Eunkook M. Suh, Thomas Talhelm, Ayse Uskul, Irem Uz, Danilo Zambrano, Douglas Kenrick, Oana A. David, Galina Golovina, Elena Samoylenko, Tatyana Savchenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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What motives do people prioritize in their social lives? Historically, social psychologists, especially those adopting an evolutionary perspective, have devoted a great deal of research attention to sexual attraction and romantic-partner choice (mate seeking). Research on long-term familial bonds (mate retention and kin care) has been less thoroughly connected to relevant comparative and evolutionary work on other species, and in the case of kin care, these bonds have been less well researched. Examining varied sources of data from 27 societies around the world, we found that people generally view familial motives as primary in importance and mate-seeking motives as relatively low in importance. Compared with other groups, college students, single people, and men place relatively higher emphasis on mate seeking, but even those samples rated kin-care motives as more important. Furthermore, motives linked to long-term familial bonds are positively associated with psychological well-being, but mate-seeking motives are associated with anxiety and depression. We address theoretical and empirical reasons why there has been extensive research on mate seeking and why people prioritize goals related to long-term familial bonds over mating goals. Reallocating relatively greater research effort toward long-term familial relationships would likely yield many interesting new findings relevant to everyday people’s highest social priorities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-201
Number of pages29
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Issue number1
Early online date03 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2020


  • evolutionary psychology
  • family
  • goals
  • interpersonal relations
  • motivation
  • reward
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Male
  • Young Adult
  • Family Relations
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Social Behavior
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Reward
  • Goals
  • Interpersonal Relations


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