Balancing Competing Motives: Adaptive Trade-Offs Are Necessary to Satisfy Disease Avoidance and Interpersonal Affiliation Goals

Abstract

The current research provides novel evidence for motivational trade-offs between the two fundamental human goals of pursuing
social affiliation and avoiding disease. In Study 1, participants completed a writing prime that manipulated inclusionary
status and found that socially excluded participants indicated lower feelings of current disease susceptibility compared with
control and socially included participants. In Study 2, participants were included or excluded via Cyberball and then indicated
their preferences for symmetrical versus asymmetrical faces. Socially excluded participants displayed lower preferences for
symmetrical faces—a cue associated with greater disease resistance. Finally, in Study 3, participants were primed with either
disease threat or a general negative affective state and then indicated their current affiliation interest. Activated disease
concerns uniquely led participants to display less interest in social affiliation. Taken together, affiliation needs result
in disease avoidance down-regulation to aid reaffiliation, whereas disease concerns result in affiliation down-regulation
to facilitate pathogen avoidance.

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