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In SCARF: a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others, David Rock presents findings from various social neuroscience studies. Two emerging themes stand out:
Firstly, that much of our motivation driving social behavior is governed by an overarching organizing principle of minimizing threat and maximizing reward (Gordon, 2000). Secondly, that (…) social needs are treated in much the same way in the brain as the need for food and water. (Lieberman and Eisenberger, 2008)
If you have time to read the whole piece, I recommend it.
In brief, the brain’s threat or “avoid” response results in increased levels of stress hormones like cortisol. When stressed, you are not able to think clearly, because the region of your brain that deals with executive functions like reasoning, linear processing, or even creative problem solving (pre-frontal cortex) doesn’t receive enough oxygen or glucose. Instead, you are more likely to generalize and play it safe (activating the amygdala, part of the older limbic brain structure also handling instinctive fight-or-flight responses).
The brain’s reward or “approach” response results in increased levels of happy hormones like oxytocin and dopamine. When rewarded, you feel engaged and motivated. You feel safe, joyful, and are more likely to see alternative options to problem solving and take risks.
The SCARF® model explains how the following five concepts affect our experiences with other people:
- Status (how important are you compared to others)
- Certainty (how well can you predict the future)
- Autonomy (how much control do you have over certain events)
- Relatedness (how safe and connected do you feel with others)
- Fairness (how fair are your social interactions)
Rock explains that leaders can do the following things to reduce threat and increase reward for each aspect:
As with many other models or leadership frameworks, the limitation I see is that they were conceived and probably tested from a uniquely Western, if not even limited United States point-of-view.
Dr. David Rock and Christine Cox, Ph.D also published SCARF® in 2012: updating the social neuroscience of collaborating with others. They propose using the model to evaluate emotional responses before, during, and after an event and added findings from more recent social neuroscience research. Some suggestions mention a cultural and personality-trait variations, e.g.
- (…) the importance of status for an individual may be a basic personality trait and can influence social interactions even if he or she is not aware of it.
- (…) Individual differences in various personality traits can also affect the way that people process and respond to uncertain and ambiguous situations.
- (…) Across the globe, psychological prosperity (such as a sense of autonomy), as opposed to economic prosperity, better predicts feelings of well-being.
- (…) It appears that the definition of in-group and out-group members is not limited to racial, ethnic, or political distinctions
- (…) emotions are integral to judging fairness, and those judgments emerge over time through social experiences with others.
For the past five days, I’ve been blogging about the SCARF® model from a culture and personality Type perspective (note: trait and Type are not the same thing).
I propose to add future research studies to be controlled for – or at least take into consideration - these factors to give us a clearer understanding of how our brains work depending on Type and cultural environments.