Publication Type

Master Thesis

Publication Date



Past research on the need to belong in groups has largely examined the circumstances under which individuals go against their personal preferences and conform to group norms. The current research examines how the need to belong may shape the things people view as important for happiness, and what makes their lives complete. Two studies tested the main hypothesis that after activating belongingness needs, participants will be more likely to emphasize the importance of things valued by society (e.g., a lot of money, a successful career, etc.). In Study 1, the need to belong was activated by asking participants to recall a time when they engaged in an action that enabled them to gain social approval from others (vs. doing what they wanted), following which they rated the extent to which different pathways were key to their happiness. The results did not support the hypothesis that activating the need to belong would heighten the preference for what society saw as important for happiness. We identified two limitations in Study 1, which we sought to rectify in Study 2. First, it is possible that actions taken to gain social approval and following personal preferences may not be mutually exclusive despite how it is often examined in the literature. Therefore, in Study 2, we changed the manipulation to ask participants to recall a time in which they faced social rejection (to activate the need to belong) vs. a time which they experienced social acceptance. We also added a non-social, negative valence control group (i.e., failure) to test whether all negative experiences will have a similar effect on the dependent measure. The second limitation we identified was that people may have a preconceived idea of what is important for happiness that cannot be easily changed by activating belongingness needs. Therefore, we asked participants what would make their lives complete instead, something which may be less subject to preconceived notions. The results showed that contrary to expectations, participants in the social rejection condition did not evince a preference for societal completeness items as compared to those in the social acceptance and failure conditions. Various limitations and improvements for future research are discussed.


need to belong, need for differentiation, conformity, group processes, social acceptance, social exclusion

Degree Awarded

Master of Science in Psychology


Social Psychology


AU, Evelyn

First Page


Last Page



Singapore Management University

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.