Social Instinct
Interdependence and reciprocity

Everything that lives needs to be part of a system of interconnections in which to carry out its task to increase the chances of survival.


This instinct in all animals deals with the ability to adapt to the environment and to others in order to cooperate and survive. It is the one that recognizes belonging, adaptability, reciprocity, role, recognition and mutual trust, the exact position in the group’s hierarchy and its internal dynamics which, for example, allows flocks to fly together.

In animals, the Social Instinct leads to the creation and support of the pack, flock or colony with individual roles and specific internal codes that members are required to respect.


In human beings it manifests in the need to form bonds and affiliations, to group together in clans, tribes or families in which the survival of others is necessary to support and improve one’s own. It is expressed in adaptability, the ability to read language and nonverbal signals, and the drive to make a difference by feeling involved in something meaningful in the world.


When it is healthy and functional it is a sense of responsibility, friendship, availability, sharing. A movement that leads to altruism and sincere sacrifice, to doing things for the good of others, to the ability to work together and collaborate, to team up even if there are only two of you linked by a project. It is commitment in the community, the willingness to participate for a common purpose and good, to contribute something meaningful to the world so that our lives and the lives of others are improved. The more sophisticated the organism, the more the Social Instinct concerns the ability to serve the common good. It is the awareness that everything we do is ultimately not just about us, but about the awakening of the world.


Individuals with dominant Social Instincts love being part of a community, feeling involved in a shared project and supported by affiliations, bonds and connections. They want to know their place on the scene, the impact they have on others, to know who is on their side and who is not. They believe that if they don’t support others they won’t be supported, that if they offer what they have now, material or emotional, the other will reciprocate in the future. They are curious about the experience, expertise and lives of others. Communicating, regardless of the topic, is a way to examine and validate each other, identify who is in your group, or create a bond. They capture the energy of the group and know how to respond to it, they are available to learn new behaviors and adapt to tune in and get along, they notice when someone is missing, if they are not well, if they need something or feel excluded. They want there to be no winners or losers, that the system wins and that everyone collaborates to make this happen. For them, social bonds are a sense of identity, so they can be very specific and picky about the type of bond they want and the amount of connection and are better off in small groups. They have peripheral vision and the ability to multitask and avoid focusing all their energy on one thing.


The unhealthy Social Instinct leads to having fixed ideas and preconceptions about others, to manipulating and creating co-dependent relationships. Like other instincts, in man it can become obsessive and destructive and lead to ideology, fundamentalism and war due to questions of opinion, belonging, class, religion, family, politics. Examples of unhealthy Social Instincts are mafia organizations and taking personal profit from one’s political position. Or to be non-participatory, non-cooperating, in coalition or conspiratorial. To be obsessed with the opinion of others, reputation, social position and role to the point of maintaining harmful bonds, neglecting one’s own needs, the partner. To be deeply embarrassed by silence and engage in absurd conversations and gossip.

(Selected extract from “Crescere con L’Enneagramma”, Maura Amelia Bonanno, 2018, Armenia Edizioni)