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Abstract

People are inherently driven by the need to form and maintain relationships, and these affiliation goals can influence health behaviors in two ways: (a) indirectly, by increasing a person’s attention to others and subsequently leaving them more likely to emulate the health behaviors of others (social contagion); (b) directly, by leading people to be more likely to engage in health behaviors they perceive as helping them to form and maintain relationships with others (self-initiated behavioral engagement). In this review, we discuss the evidence for the catalyzing role of affiliation goals in these two processes for a variety of positive (e.g., exercising, smoking-cessation) and detrimental (e.g., binge drinking and eating, needle sharing) health behaviors. We also discuss individual difference factors that may temporarily or chronically activate affiliation goals and ultimately influence health behaviors. Affiliation goals hold many implications for the study of health behavior, and for improving interventions.