Caring for family is what motivates people worldwide

People consistently rated kin care and mate retention as the most important motivations in their lives.


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One of life’s most satisfying pleasures is the luxury of having a family. One of the things that make families so essential and so meaningful is that they are centers of happiness.

People we hold closest are the ones who matter the most in our life. Caring for them is what matters most.

A new study by Arizona State University surveyed over 7,000 people from 27 different countries- asking them- what motivates them. They responded that kin care and mate retention- the most important motivations in their lives. Singles prioritized finding new partners more than people in committed relationships, and men ranked mate-seeking higher than women.

During the study, scientists sent a survey about fundamental motivations to scientists in each of the participating countries. Then, the scientists in every nation translated the questions into the native language and made edits with the goal that every one of the inquiries was culturally appropriate.

For the past 40 years, evolutionary psychological research has focused on how people discover romantic or sexual partners and how this desire affects different behaviors, similar to buyer choices. In any case, study participants reliably appraised this motivation- called mate eeking- as the least significant factor in their lives.

Evolutionary psychologists define kin care as caring for and supporting family members, and mate retention as maintaining long-term committed romantic or sexual relationships. These two motivations were the most important even in groups of people thought to prioritize finding new romantic and sexual partnerships, like young adults and people not in committed relationships.

 Cari Pick, an ASU psychology graduate student, said, “The focus on mate seeking in evolutionary psychology is understandable, given the importance of reproduction. Another reason for the overemphasis on initial attraction is that college students have historically been the majority of participants.”

“College students do appear to be relatively more interested in finding sexual and romantic partners than other groups of people.”

Douglas Kenrick, President’s Professor of Psychology at ASU and senior author on the study, said, “Studying attraction is easy and sexy, but people’s everyday interests are more focused on something more wholesome – family values. Everybody cares about their family and loved ones the most, which, surprisingly, hasn’t been as carefully studied as a motivator of human behavior.”

The motivations of mate-seeking and kin care were also related to psychological well-being but in opposite ways. People who ranked mate-seeking as the most important were less satisfied with their lives and were more likely to be depressed or anxious. People who ranked kin care and long-term relationships as the most important rated their lives as more satisfying.

Kenrick said, “People might think they will be happy with numerous sexual partners, but they are happiest taking care of the people they already have.”

The study will be published on December 3 in Perspectives on Psychological Science.


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