Social Baseline Theory: The Social Regulation of Risk and Effort

Curr Opin Psychol. 2015 Feb;1:87-91. doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2014.12.021.


We describe Social Baseline Theory (SBT), a perspective that integrates the study of social relationships with principles of attachment, behavioral ecology, cognitive neuroscience, and perception science. SBT suggests the human brain expects access to social relationships that mitigate risk and diminish the level of effort needed to meet a variety of goals. This is accomplished in part by incorporating relational partners into neural representations of the self. By contrast, decreased access to relational partners increases cognitive and physiological effort. Relationship disruptions entail re-defining the self as independent, which implies greater risk, increased effort, and diminished well being. The ungrafting of the self and other may mediate recovery from relationship loss.