What do we know about gregariousness in human behavior?
July 7, 2009 10:17 AM   Subscribe

What do we know about gregariousness in human behavior?

My Google-fu is failing me: I thought that I would find tons of studies about the role (or effect, or influence) of "gregariousness" in human social behavior and I find almost nothing. Sheep, mice, bonobos, yes. Human, no. (I also searched with sociology, psychology, anthropology, neuroscience, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins.) What am I missing?
posted by bru to Science & Nature (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can you be a little more specific as to what you are trying to find out? Have you looked at the communication literature at all?
posted by DiscourseMarker at 10:41 AM on July 7, 2009

Is this what you're looking for?
posted by ohyouknow at 10:49 AM on July 7, 2009

In psychology you may be stumbling because gregariousness, I guess, is a multi-dimensional personality trait; it has internal components which can be measured separately and distinctly. I guess a combination of Openness and Extraversion - and likely others from the many different theories of personality type and formation.
posted by Blacksun at 11:11 AM on July 7, 2009

As someone with a background in psychology, "gregariousness" does not sound like a term that is used in social psych. Try your search again through PubMed, ISI and PsychInfo with different terms, depending on what you're looking for.

Are you interested in the genetic components of sociability? Maybe you're more interested in the developmental aspects?(you will need to be on a university affiliated network for that link to give you access to the article, most likely) Maybe you're interested in the evolution of social behaviors? You need to narrow your question and figure out the buzzwords that will bring up the literature you're looking for.

By the way, Daniel Dennett's and Richard Dawkin's theories have little to do with social psychology in the sense you're asking. They really just talk on a broad level about cognition. They don't care much about the variations in cognition between individuals (like "gregariousness"). They care about how to conceptualize the mind and human thought.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:25 AM on July 7, 2009

Thanks, ohyouknow, but I am looking for behavior, not genetics.

DiscourseMarker: It's apparently quite simple: whether you look at malls, sports arenas, concerts, movie theaters, restaurants, etc. people like to be among people. It's so obvious that there should be thousands of studies about how gregariousness is an important factor in business, art, urbanism, entertainment, real estate, right? Where are they?

About "communication literature", qhat do you have in mind? I just searched gregariousness + communication and found that Montessori ranks gregariousness as one of 9 "Human Tendencies": "A child’s tendency for gregariousness directs him to seek out other children and as well as adults so that they learn to be in community. Adults are gregarious for other more complex reasons." "More complex reasons"?
posted by bru at 11:27 AM on July 7, 2009

The books The Psychology of Affiliation, and Human Traits and Their Social Significance might be useful reading for you (though that second one may be a little dated).

Also: This Article [requires a subscription].
posted by tipthepizzaguy at 11:46 AM on July 7, 2009

So are you looking for research that explores *why* humans are social animals? Naomi Eisenberger's research might be of interest there.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 11:50 AM on July 7, 2009

Sorry, should've previewed.
Thank you Blacksun and slow graffiti.
Blacksun, I visited all your links and that's not what I am looking for. I will try to be more specific below.
slow graffiti, I am not a scholar, so I don't have access to this article. Thanks for the precision about Dennett and Dawkins.

I am not a scientist. I am interested in online media and communities. I am curious about why most media seem to not get the "community" part. I am wondering if there are studies showing the importance of gregariousness when you are planning a business: for example, why restaurants are open spaces and not individual closed boxes? why some people prefer to go to a movie theater rather than watching the same film on their tv? what is the minimum density of people in a public urban park that makes people comfortable about going in the park? how do you measure the importance of gregariousness when planning a public space?
posted by bru at 11:54 AM on July 7, 2009

Gregariousness is also termed 'Affiliation.' A quick search on pubmed for 'human Affiliation behavior' brings up thousands of hits. Here's the first relevant one about affiliation in teenage girls
Results demonstrated that social activities were among the most time-consuming and enjoyable activities of their day and were engaged in voluntarily. Analysis of their writing samples demonstrated that adolescents incorporated more affiliation themes than achievement or power themes. However, quantitative measures did not predict qualitative measures.
There is tons more on that site, but it's really outside of my field. If anyone has direct expertise feel free to chime in.

On preview, Affiliation has now been mentioned. Still, my best recommend is to use your google-fu on pubmed to find the info you're looking for.
posted by scrutiny at 12:07 PM on July 7, 2009

Would a search for "social interaction in humans" be more what you're looking for?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:12 PM on July 7, 2009

I second Brandon Blatcher. You are taking a word not ordinarily used in the social sciences and looking for stuff based on that. Its like searching for "mating selection based on various textiles" in Vogue. Its all in there...but the terms aren't.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:49 PM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ok, I think I see more of what you're getting at. Nthing that "gregariousness" is not a standard social science term. In addition to affiliation, extraversion (as a dimension of gregariousness) is an often-used term in discussing personality traits.

why some people prefer to go to a movie theater rather than watching the same film on their tv?

Well, I found you a possible answer to this question in this article. From the Discussion section:
The contrast in findings across media in the initial analyses suggests that the technological characteristics of a medium and the way a medium is used can contribute to the relation between personality characteristics and media use. Extraversion, for example, did not explain exposure to films shown in a theater, which is consistent with Finn’s (1997) previous work. However, Extraversion predicted exposure to films at home. This outcome does not seem to have been evaluated previously. In-home movie viewing may be less constrained in terms of time, cost, and preplanning than theater attendance, which would make personality influences easier to discern. At-home movie viewing may also serve more specific social functions than either theater attendance, which is a social outing that allows one to avoid talking with one’s companion, or general television watching. Home movie viewing may function as an informal communal activity that allows for greater interaction with coviewers. ... However, the result suggests that this area of investigation may benefit from combining personality factors with audiences’ perceptions of the functions or gratifications that particular media fulfill. The impact of personality may depend on the audiences’ perception of the gratifications offered by the material.
So in other words, personality traits may have some ability to predict what forms of media people choose, but it is a complicated question and likely affected by a number of other factors.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 1:13 PM on July 7, 2009

Thank you all.
Sorry for the delay.

I appreciate every answer because each one helps me to get closer to what I am looking for, and I have visited all the links. I'll mark as "best answer" those who say that "gregariousness" is not the right word because it is possible that there is another word (or several) covering this topic.

I have to disagree though with the example chosen by hal_c_on: a whole convoluted sentence "mating selection based on various textiles" standing for one word "fashion". My problem is the opposite: the word "gregariousness" is exactly what I mean but it is not used as such in studying human social behavior.

So I'll try to express it another way:
Fact: people like to be with people, and often with people they don't know.
Can this factor be measured as a mean social factor (not on a personal preference level)? Has it been done in psychology, anthropology, sociology, urbanism? And can those measures, if they exist, be used in planning public spaces?
posted by bru at 11:02 AM on July 9, 2009

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