Social contact is the basic desire for companionship with peers. Satisfaction of this desire produces feelings of fun and belonging, whereas frustration produces feelings of loneliness.

William McDougall (1908/2003) suggested that human beings are born with a “gregarious instinct,” or an inborn tendency to live in small groups such as herds or tribes. This basic desire creates a psychological need for friends. People who want many friends learn social graces and skills to attract and keep them. The desire to socialize is so highly valued that withholding opportunities to socialize – as in ostracism – is a form of punishment.   

This basic desire is about companionship with peers and does not include companionship with parents and children. How much time a person wants to spend with his or her parents or children does not predict how much time the individual wants to spend with peers. The strivings for honor and family, respectively, motivate interest in parents and children. Further, the basic desire for social contact is not satisfied by time spent with lovers, which falls under the basic desire for romance. Only the striving for social contact motivates interest in peers.   

People with a STRONG BASIC DESIRE FOR SOCIAL CONTACT are friendly. They may show mannerisms and habits that attract others.  They may be fun loving and upbeat. Personality traits that may describe them include affable, charming, cheerful, engaging, extroverted, friendly, fun-loving, gracious, gregarious, outgoing, playful, prankster, sociable, vivacious, and warm.

People with a WEAK BASIC DESIRE FOR SOCIAL CONTACT enjoy solitude. They dislike parties, small talk, and socializing, and they may show little interest in most people they meet. They may have few friends. They often seem to be in a serious mood. Personality traits that may describe them include quiet, private, serious, introvert, aloof, brusque, detached, distant, and possibly withdrawn.

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