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Fiske’s Five Social Motives Compare and Contrast Essay

Individuals engage in social activities due to the desire to belong. In this regard, Fiske (2010) identifies five motives that encourage individuals to take part in societal activities. These motives include the control motive, the desire to belong, comprehension motive, self-enhancing motive, and trusting motive. This paper aspires to compare the five motives in an attempt to establish the strongest motive.

A number of studies show that individuals take part in social activities so that they can receive necessary assistance (Thrash, & Elliot, 2002). Social problems cannot be tackled individually hence, individuals form groups or teams to deal with socio-economic problems. For instance, the physically challenged would form self-help groups to fight their rights.

Through the groups, the interests of members would be achieved through collective bargaining. The groups would as well provide social and psychological support. In many cases, people form groups whenever they feel that their interests are under threat. Regarding the motive to control, people form groups in order to dominate decision making in society.

The motive to control is mostly political because groups with this kind of motive would dictate what should be done in society. The motive to control is used to fulfill other interests other than social interests (Gable, Reis, & Elliot, 2000). In society, the political class would form associations that would ensure the proletariat does not unite.

For instance, the formation of a trade union is an example of a control mechanism. The trade union is always formed to serve the interests of the ruling class. This is because the ruling class always influences the selection of union officials.

Since people’s understanding is limited, they form groups to help them in interpreting the surrounding environment. This kind of motive is referred to as the comprehension motive. Under this motive, people come up with mechanisms that help to predict the future. Self-enhancing motive is the desire to fulfill self-interests. The interest of many people is to improve their performance socially and economically.

In this case, they would form groups or teams to enhance their chances. For instance, people with similar ideas would form a political party or an organization that would help them achieve certain goals. Lastly, people engage in societal activities to build trust.

Some people engage in activities to bring about sanity. For instance, interest groups and pressure groups would always force the government to share information with the public because they are interested in fairness and trust.

Motive to Control

The motive to control summarizes the reasons why an individual would engage in social activities. This is because individuals will always engage in activities that satisfy their interests. For politicians, they would engage in politics in order to control decision-making processes. For an individual, he or she would engage in an activity in order to achieve personal interests.

Therefore, the motive to control explains why people would act in a certain way (Reis, Collins, & Berscheid, 2000). Aristotle once said that man is both a social and political animal. This means that an individual will always explore ways through which he or she would control the rest of society. Power is needed to control social aspects.

Even though an individual would be powerful, he or she would always seek more power (Sanderson, & Cantor, 2001). Power helps individuals to achieve their goals. Human nature is characterized by anarchy and brutality. Once in power, an individual does not seek to achieve collective interests.

This forces individuals to seek power in order to be on a safer side. With power, an individual can achieve any interest. Machiavelli once said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Therefore, an individual feels safe if he or she controls the decision making process.


Fiske, S.T. (2010). Social Beings: Core Motives in Social Psychology (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley & Sons.

Gable, S. L., Reis, H. T., & Elliot, A. J. (2000). Behavioral Activation and Inhibition in Everyday Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(2), 1135–1149.

Reis, H. T., Collins, W. A., & Berscheid, E. (2000). The relationship context of human behavior and development. Psychological Bulletin, 126(3), 844–872.

Sanderson, C. A., & Cantor, N. (2001). The association of intimacy goals and marital satisfaction: A test of four meditational hypotheses. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27(5), 1567–1577.

Thrash, T. M., & Elliot, A. J. (2002). Implicit and Self-Attributed Achievement Motives: Concordance and Predictive Validity. Journal of Personality, 70(1), 729–755.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Fiske’s Five Social Motives." August 12, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-motives/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Fiske’s Five Social Motives'. 12 August.

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