In physics, the unified theory of everything is a singular, unifying explanation for all physical and natural forces in the universe, from gravity to electromagnetism. To date, there is no proven theory. While still unproven–but also not disproven–Einstein’s theory of relativity is the closest the scientific world has come to establishing the unified theory of everything.
But what about the social world?
Why do we as human beings make the choices we do? Fall in love the way we do– fight the way we do, shop the way we do?
Is there a single explanation or master theory that explains all of the idiosyncratic, self-destructive, artistic, humane, and inhumane ways that we behave?
There must be.
In fact, we think we know what it is.
However unlike physics – a universal social theory about human behavior is likely unprovable, but can only be used to spark debate, but to us – the inate human need (for survival) to engage in and manage relationships – is the singular explanation for all that is amazing and awful about our society and behaviors.
We are not inherently good or evil. Our inherent social and relationship needs drive us to do good and evil things.
And for lack of a better more clever word, we are calling the ability to measure relationship needs: Kinectivity. The name is a combination of Kin + Connectivity. Essentially measuring how strong in an almost familial sense, is the bond.
Social Science and Neuroscience has confirmed, that at our core we are socially driven beings. Right at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid, next to needs for food, sex, shelter – is also an entrenched human need to belong to connect.
This NEED to connect is why break ups hurt, it is why being left out hurts.
This is validated by fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scans that show the way our brains respond to social pain and pleasure is neurologically no different than the way we respond to physical pain.
To quote acclaimed neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman’s book,Social:
By activating the same neural circuitry that causes us to feel physical pain, our experience of social pain also ensures the survival of our children by keeping them close to their parents. The neural link between social and physical pain also ensures that staying socially connected will be a lifelong need.
The simple fact is that our need to connect is hardwired.
Most of us know this to be true in our personal lives, and we would agree that our connections to our family, mentors and friends are not only irreplaceable, but also responsible for our happiness.
As we move beyond our immediate social circles we disassociate or fail to see how the need to connect affects our choices and our behaviors.
As human beings, the NEED to connect never turns off because we naturally (consciously or subconsciously) associate the need to connect with enhancing our ability to survive.
It is why we name our cars or feel sad when we move from an apartment that we have lived in for some time. This need drives us to form parasocial relationships with inanimate and abstract objects – including brands and companies.
Consumers don’t seek relationships and meaning from brands and companies because they want to; it comes from a fundamental human need to.
We are hardwired to find meaning in relationships, and we are seeking as many positive relationships as we can manage because it enhances our survival.
Conflict in society arises, while we seek positive relationships to ensure our survival, there is a cognitive limit to how many relationships we as people can maintain. British anthropologist Robin Dunbar determined that the number of maintainable relationships for the average person is ~150. What does this mean? It means it is our natural instinct to form relationships, but past a certain threshold we tend to see others as threats to our own survival because they exist outside of our social circle.
Collaboration and conflict are hardwired into who we are.
Relationships are at the core of all human interactions.
How does kinectivity measure relationships?
Kinectivity is in our words the strength of the bond, between two parties.
We use kinectivity to measure brand-to-consumer engagement, but it works because it is fundamentally tied to human nature.
But here is the business positive.
We have seen based on 5 years of research that when the bond between a brand and a consumer strengthens relative to the brand’s competitors, business outcomes also increases.