Social behavior

Social behavior is behavior among two or more organisms within the same species, and encompasses any behavior in which one member affects the other. This is due to an interaction among those members.[1][2] Social behavior can be seen as similar to an exchange of goods, with the expectation that when you give, you will receive the same.[3] This behavior can be effected by both the qualities of the individual and the environmental (situational) factors. Therefore, social behavior arises as a result of an interaction between the two—the organism and its environment. This means that, in regards to humans, social behavior can be determined by both the individual characteristics of the person, and the situation they are in.[4]

A group of women gathered around, talking. This is an example of social behavior.

A major aspect of social behavior is communication, which is the basis for survival and reproduction.[5] Social behavior is said to be determined by two different processes, that can either work together or oppose one another. The dual-systems model of reflective and impulsive determinants of social behavior came out of the realization that behavior cannot just be determined by one single factor. Instead, behavior can arise by those consciously behaving (where there is an awareness and intent), or by pure impulse. These factors that determine behavior can work in different situations and moments, and can even oppose one another. While at times one can behave with a specific goal in mind, other times they can behave without rational control, and driven by impulse instead.[6]

There are also distinctions between different types of social behavior, such as mundane versus defensive social behavior. Mundane social behavior is a result of interactions in day-to-day life, and are behaviors learned as one is exposed to those different situations. On the other hand, defensive behavior arises out of impulse, when one is faced with conflicting desires.[7]

The Development of Social Behavior

Social behavior constantly changes as one continues to grow and develop, reaching different stages of life. The development of behavior is deeply tied with the biological and cognitive changes one is experiencing at any given time. This creates general patterns of social behavior development in humans.[8] Just as social behavior is influenced by both the situation and an individual's characteristics, the development of behavior is due to the combination of the two as well—the temperament of the child along with the settings they are exposed to.[9][7]

Culture (parents and individuals that influence socialization in children) play a large role in the development of a child's social behavior, as the parents or caregivers are typically those who decide the settings and situations that the child is exposed to. These various settings the child is placed in (for example, the playground and classroom) form habits of interaction and behavior insomuch as the child being exposed to certain settings more frequently than others. What takes particular precedence in the influence of the setting are the people that the child must interact with—their age, sex, and at times culture.[7]

Emotions also play a large role in the development of social behavior, as they are intertwined with the way an individual behaves. Through social interactions, emotion is understood through various verbal and nonverbal displays, and thus plays a large role in communication. Many of the processes that occur in the brain and underlay emotion often greatly correlate with the processes that are needed for social behavior as well. A major aspect of interaction is understanding how the other person thinks and feels, and being able to detect emotional states becomes necessary for individuals to effectively interact with one another and behave socially.[10]

As the child continues to gain social information, their behavior develops accordingly.[5] One must learn how to behave according to the interactions and people relevant to a certain setting, and therefore begin to intuitively know the appropriate form of social interaction depending on the situation. Therefore, behavior is constantly changing as required, and maturity brings this on. A child must learn to balance their own desires with those of the people they interact with, and this ability to correctly respond to contextual cues and understand the intentions and desires of another person improves with age.[7] That being said, the individual characteristics of the child (their temperament) is important to understanding how the individual learns social behaviors and cues given to them, and this learnability is not consistent across all children.[9]

Patterns of Development Across the Lifespan

When studying patterns of biological development across the human lifespan, there are certain patterns that are well-maintained across humans. These patterns can often correspond with social development, and biological changes lead to respective changes in interactions.[8]

In pre and post-natal infancy, the behavior of the infant is correlated with that of the caregiver. In infancy, there is already a development of the awareness of a stranger, in which case the individual is able to identify and distinguish between people.[8]

Come childhood, the individual begins to attend more to their peers, and communication begins to take a verbal form. One also begins to classify themselves on the basis of their gender and other qualities salient about themselves, like race and age.[8]

When the child reaches school age, one typically becomes more aware of the structure of society in regards to gender, and how their own gender plays a role in this. They become more and more reliant on verbal forms of communication, and more likely to form groups and become aware of their own role within the group.[8]

An adult and infant

By puberty, general relations among same and opposite sex individuals are much more salient, and individuals begin to behave according to the norms of these situations. With increasing awareness of their sex and stereotypes that go along with it, the individual begins to choose how much they align with these stereotypes, and behaves either according to those stereotypes or not. This is also the time that individuals more often form sexual pairs.[8]

Once the individual reaches childrearing age, one must begin to undergo changes within the own behavior in accordance to major life-changes of a developing family. The potential new child requires the parent to modify their behavior to accommodate a new member of the family.[8]

Come senescence and retirement, behavior is more stable as the individual has often established their social circle (whatever it may be) and is more committed to their social structure.[8]