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34 S c i e n t i f i c and a belief that existence is meaningful constitute four fundamental psychological needs that we must meet to function as social individuals. I quickly realized that ostracism uniquely threatens all these needs. Even in a verbal or physical altercation, individuals are still connected. Total exclusion, however, severs all bonds. Social rejection also deals a uniquely harsh blow to selfesteem, because it implies wrongdoing. Worse, the imposed silence forces us to ruminate, generating self-deprecating thoughts in our search for an explanation.
Infants with a secure attachment style are able to use their mother as a secure base from which to explore the environment, learn and thrive, and derive comfort and reassurance when they are upset or tired. Those who have an insecure attachment style (anxious or avoidant) are too preoccupied with the mother ’s whereabouts to be easily soothed (anxious) or too seemingly indifferent toward her to use her as a secure base for comfort in times of need (avoidant). The powerful effect that attachment-guided treatment had on the relationship between mother a m e r i c a n m i n d J a nu a r y/Fe b r u a r y 2 01 1 © 2010 Scientific American AGE FOTOSTOC K and child encouraged Levine to deepen his knowledge of attachment theory.
On the face of it, that the human psyche would tie physical cleanliness and moral purity defies logic— any rational person knows that a bar of soap will not absolve wrongdoing. Yet clearly, the bond runs deep. Water-purification rituals, for example, are a part of most of the world’s major religions. Zhong and Liljenquist speculate that the connection may stem in part from a basic cognitive need to root abstract qualities in bodily experience and in a m e r i c a n m i n d J a nu a r y/Fe b r u a r y 2 01 1 © 2010 Scientific American andrea bricco Corbis Clean Hands, Pure Heart part from an evolved disgust toward unclean foods.