Mere belonging: the power of social connections

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2012 Mar;102(3):513-32. doi: 10.1037/a0025731. Epub 2011 Oct 24.


Four experiments examined the effect on achievement motivation of mere belonging, a minimal social connection to another person or group in a performance domain. Mere belonging was expected to increase motivation by creating socially shared goals around a performance task. Participants were led to believe that an endeavor provided opportunities for positive social interactions (Experiment 1), that they shared a birthday with a student majoring in an academic field (Experiment 2), that they belonged to a minimal group arbitrarily identified with a performance domain (Experiment 3), or that they had task-irrelevant preferences similar to a peer who pursued a series of goals (Experiment 4). Relative to control conditions that held constant other sources of motivation, each social-link manipulation raised motivation, including persistence on domain-relevant tasks (Experiments 1-3) and the accessibility of relevant goals (Experiment 4). The results suggest that even minimal cues of social connectedness affect important aspects of self.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Mathematics
  • Motivation
  • Problem Solving
  • Social Adjustment
  • Social Identification
  • Social Support*