Family still matters: Human social motivation across 42 countries during a global pandemic

Cari M. Pick, Ahra Ko, Alexandra S. Wormley, Adi Wiezel, Douglas T. Kenrick, Laith Al-Shawaf, Oumar Barry, Yoella Bereby-Meyer, Watcharaporn Boonyasiriwat, Eduard Brandstätter, Ana Carla Crispim, Julio Eduardo Cruz, Daniel David, Oana A. David, Renata Pereira Defelipe, Pinar Elmas, Agustín Espinosa, Ana Maria Fernandez, Velichko H. Fetvadjiev, Stefka FetvadjievaRonald Fischer, Silvia Galdi, Oscar Javier Galindo-Caballero, Galina M. Golovina, Luis Gomez-Jacinto, Sylvie Graf, Igor Grossmann, Pelin Gul, Peter Halama, Takeshi Hamamura, Lina S. Hansson, Hidefumi Hitokoto, Martina Hřebíčková, Darinka Ilic, Jennifer Lee Johnson, Mane Kara-Yakoubian, Johannes A. Karl, Michal Kohút, Julie Lasselin, Norman P. Li, Anthonieta Looman Mafra, Oksana Malanchuk, Simone Moran, Asuka Murata, Serigne Abdou Lahat Ndiaye, Jiaqing O, Ike E. Onyishi, Eddieson Pasay-an, Muhammed Rizwan, Eric Roth, Sergio Salgado, Elena S. Samoylenko, Tatyana N. Savchenko, A. Timur Sevincer, Eric Skoog, Adrian Stanciu, Eunkook M. Suh, Daniel Sznycer, Thomas Talhelm, Fabian O. Ugwu, Ayse K. Uskul, Irem Uz, Jaroslava Varella Valentova, Marco Antonio Correa Varella, Danilo Zambrano, Michael E.W. Varnum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The COVID-19 pandemic caused drastic social changes for many people, including separation from friends and coworkers, enforced close contact with family, and reductions in mobility. Here we assess the extent to which people's evolutionarily-relevant basic motivations and goals—fundamental social motives such as Affiliation and Kin Care—might have been affected. To address this question, we gathered data on fundamental social motives in 42 countries (N = 15,915) across two waves, including 19 countries (N = 10,907) for which data were gathered both before and during the pandemic (pre-pandemic wave: 32 countries, N = 8998; 3302 male, 5585 female; Mage = 24.43, SD = 7.91; mid-pandemic wave: 29 countries, N = 6917; 2249 male, 4218 female; Mage = 28.59, SD = 11.31). Samples include data collected online (e.g., Prolific, MTurk), at universities, and via community sampling. We found that Disease Avoidance motivation was substantially higher during the pandemic, and that most of the other fundamental social motives showed small, yet significant, differences across waves. Most sensibly, concern with caring for one's children was higher during the pandemic, and concerns with Mate Seeking and Status were lower. Earlier findings showing the prioritization of family motives over mating motives (and even over Disease Avoidance motives) were replicated during the pandemic. Finally, well-being remained positively associated with family-related motives and negatively associated with mating motives during the pandemic, as in the pre-pandemic samples. Our results provide further evidence for the robust primacy of family-related motivations even during this unique disruption of social life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-535
Number of pages9
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Nov

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Conceptualization and Methodology: C. M. Pick, A. Ko, D. T. Kenrick, and M. E. W. Varnum developed the manuscript's arguments and study design. Investigation: All authors contributed to data collection. Data curation: C. M. Pick, A. Ko, A. Wiezel, and A. S. Wormley curated the data. Formal analysis: C. M. Pick, A. Ko, A. S. Wormley, and A. Wiezel analyzed the data. Visualization: A. Ko, C. M. Pick, and A. S. Wormley produced and edited figures. Project administration: C. M. Pick coordinated the project. Writing – original draft: C. M. Pick drafted the manuscript, with significant input from D. T. Kenrick and M. E. W. Varnum. Writing – review and editing: C. M. Pick, D. T. Kenrick, M. E. W. Varnum, A. Ko, A. S. Wormley, A. Wiezel, L. Al-Shawaf, R. P. Defelipe, V. Fetvadjiev, L. S. Hansson, J. Lasselin, A. L. Mafra, S. Moran, J. O, T. Talhelm, A. K. Uskul, J. V. Valentova, and M. A. C. Varella provided critical comments and revisions; all authors approved the final manuscript for submission. Funding acquisition: M. E. W. Varnum, D. T. Kenrick, A. C. Crispim, R. P. Defelipe, S. Graf, M. Hřebíčková, J. O, S. Salgado, and A. S. Wormley each acquired financial support for the project. Supervision: M. E. W. Varnum and D. T. Kenrick supervised the project.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Inc.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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