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Baumeister and Leary (1995) argue compellingly that human beings have a need to belong, and that this need may be deeply rooted in the experience of homo sapiens in their Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (EEA). For humans, the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness is commonly taken to be the Pleistocene environment in which the overwhelming majority of human evolution is thought to have occurred. The need to belong to a group may, however, be only the most basic of the adaptations that emerged during the EEA for humans. It seems likely that a variety of other social adaptations have developed as well, and that these serve to further the goal of maintaining or optimizing group involvement and pair bonding.
Leary and Downs (1995) note, for example, that evaluative feelings about the self may serve as a social adaptation “that (1) monitors the social environment for cues indicating disapproval, rejection, or exclusion and (2) alerts the individual via negative affective reactions when such cues are detected.” (Leary & Downs, 1995, p. 129). Gilbert (1992) also hypothesizes that mechanisms to enhance smooth functioning within a group or dyadic context may have assumed increasing evolutionary importance as homo sapiens became more oriented to alliances and sharing. Gilbert (1992) highlights the emergence of strategies to gain and control others' attention through coalitions and cooperative activity, rather than exclusive reliance on strategies to attain dominance via threat and aggression.
An essay with this title could be written by almost any working social scientist but the form, shape, and content would differ considerably among authors. As a past journal editor and chair of a grants review committee, I have had many opportunities to compose and to systematically read reviews of research. One thing that almost all critics agree on is the importance of theory. Research training for most of us is very clear on how to use statistics to evaluate data; many of us have been exposed to a substantial dose of material on experimental design (e.g., the circumstances under which it is or is not possible to draw causal inferences). Still, in spite of its importance, few of us have had much formal training in “theory.” We pick up much of what we know from our own resonances to the literature in combination with the informal comments of instructors and fellow graduate students and, later, colleagues. There is little in the way of a theory “canon” that all of us study. So, although there is widespread agreement on the importance of theory and hypotheses to research each of us tends to emphasize different aspects in thinking about it. Thus, the issues and the emphases in this treatment are admittedly idiosyncratic.
I think of theories as abstract schemes that help to explain and organize experience. For present purposes, hypotheses are derivations from a more general theory and are often tied to concrete observations.
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