In essence we are all social creatures. We all want to fit in and to belong. Throughout history we have enhanced our chances for survival by collectively sharing things as resources, knowledge and workloads. Isolation or rejection from a group could have decreased our survival chances.
As a result our brain is highly aware of the ongoing social status and possible threats or rewards to this. It interprets our social interactions through the same neural pathways and chemical reactions that are commonly used for pleasure and pain. For example, when our brain recognizes potential rewards from a social interaction, it triggers the approach (reward) response and releases chemicals along the same neural pathways associated with pleasure, making us feel physically good. When we feel rejected, taken advantage of, or think that our social status is under threat, our brain triggers the avoid (threat) response and activate the same pathways that tell us we are in physical pain
Throughout time our brain has evolved to a pattern-recognition machine that is constantly trying to predict the consequences of our social interactions with others in order for us to be able to anticipate adequately on potential danger due to a drop in social status, or a rejection from others. We need to know if things are working in our favour or when our social status maybe under threat.
Today the workplace is one of the biggest social environments the brain experiences.
In his whitepaper (SCARF: a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others), Dr. David Rock describes the SCARF-Model and the 5 domains of social experience and emotional needs that can activate a reward or a threat response in a social situation, and that sub-consciously govern much of our behaviour: Security, Relatedness, Autonomy, Status and Fairness. These 5 overarching motivational drivers enable us to draw conscious awareness to otherwise non conscious processes, and helps:
- To analyze and to understand what triggers the reward or a threat response
- To solve social conflicts
- To predict our social behaviour
- To design interactions to minimize threats
- To stimulate desired behaviour by tapping into internal rewards