The SCARF Model
The SCARF Model emerged in 2008. David Rock presented this model in his research article “SCARF: A Brain-Based Model for Collaborating With and Influencing Others.” The term SCARF is the abbreviation of the following five core elements that impact our attitude in social settings.
- Status- the way others consider us essential.
- Certainty- our tendency to forecast the future.
- Autonomy- feeling of control over the situation.
- Relatedness- our sense of safety with others.
- Fairness- our perception of the fairness of exchanges between people.
The SCARF Model’s Basis
SCARF model base on neuroscience studies. It is an indication that the five fundamental elements stimulate the threat and reward reactions in humans’ brains.
The initial response enables us to describe occasional strong emotional reactions that we may feel according to social events. Sometimes it becomes difficult to overcome certain feelings. This is instinct, and we cannot just ignore it completely.
When someone leaves us for an activity, we may think it is threatening to our position and relevant abilities. Studies have indicated that this reaction may activate the area of our brain, similar to that of the physical pain. In this way, our brain transmits the signal that we are facing danger.
Besides, when our threat-perception goes up either socially or physically- the cortisol (stress hormone) discharges. It affects our creative abilities during those moments. As a result, we struggle to think straight, and it reinforces the perception of being under threat.
In contrast, when we receive appreciation for our work, we feel rewarded. In this case, the release of dopamine (the happy hormone) takes place in our brains. So, naturally, we desire more, and we look for new ways to get appreciation.
The SCARF Model closely relates to Barbara Frederickson’s “Broaden and Build Concept” that associates performance with the feelings of happiness and safety.
How Can the SCARF Model Help International Students?
As an international student, you deal with a multicultural environment. Therefore, if you feel any pressure, you will end up blocking your creativity. For better performance, you must utilize your problem-solving skills without feeling threatened. The sense of being rewarded boosts your confidence, and when you feel empowered, your performance improves.
The SCARF Model enables you to control perceived threats, and it fosters positive feelings that penetrate through reward while working with others. The model helps coach people as it provides comprehensive training and feedback.
How Can International Students Use the SCARF Model?
To strengthen the sense of reward and to minimize perceived threats, the following suggestions are helpful for international students.
Remove Threats: Misjudging feedback may threaten people’s sense of status and may cause anger or defensiveness. As a student, you should be able to evaluate your performance in the first place and then analyze the feedback positively.
You may feel that you are not in a comfortable position among diverse student groups. And, this feeling may reflect negatively through your grades. To overcome negative thoughts, try to extract positive aspects while studying in class and spending time with your classmates.
Appreciate Yourself: Feel confident you perform well in the classroom. Try to seek opportunities to enhance your abilities and build your knowledge. For instance, you can participate in class discussion without any hesitation. Besides, involvement in new projects will be a good idea.
However, avoid over-confidence; if you start performing well, do not deviate and keep maintaining your focus.
When you are uncertain of anything, the orbital frontal cortex of your brain begins overthinking as it tries to investigate the unknown element. This may develop the feeling of being threatened and to lose concentration. Students can control overthinking by dividing complicated tasks into smaller understandable portions.
Furthermore, you have to build resilience and flexibility to handle uncertain situations in a better way. Human’s brain wants certainty. When they know their expectations, they generally feel secure and safe. In a way, this safety itself is a reward.
One can maximize the sense of security by developing clarity on what they expect from others. This attitude will give students a direction, and they will gain knowledge with the feeling of safety. The feeling of an uncertain environment will fade away.
Avoid excessive involvement with the daily activities of people. Make them realize that their judgement and include them in decision-making processes. Try to be a team member and if you are a team leader, delegate the tasks rather than holding on to them.
The lack of belongingness or relatedness may cause a sense of isolation in ourselves. This may negatively impact creativity, morale and collaboration. You can counter this by developing a positive relationship with your classmates and colleagues.
When a student connects with others, their brain releases the oxytocin hormone (also known as the love hormone). With the release of oxytocin, the feeling of relatedness grows. So, try to build a strong relationship with teams in educational institutes and at workplaces.
When you feel something is unfair, the insular cortex (the area of the brain linked to disgust) gets active. This causes a strong threat reaction. You may reduce this impact by demonstrating honesty and openness with the individual about what’s happening.
Importantly, make sure you give everyone a fair treatment. Motivate mutual acceptance and do not ignore individuals on purpose.
Unfairness occurs when no rules, expectation or objective are in place. Setting a “Code of Conduct” defines individuals’ roles and targets. Proper hierarchy is necessary for operations daily. Getting people’s inputs always help you in the accomplishment of tasks.
These tips serve as a general suggestion. Keep in mind that everyone in your team is different, and therefore, their reaction may be different in specific situations. For instance, the introvert person will shy away from public appreciation. On the other hand, an extrovert will feel more confident and energetic by it.
Understanding the people around you will enable you to employ the SCARF Model effectively. Before taking any action, you should consider the individual needs of people. Develop empathy. What other person feels a threat? What is the meaning of reward in their view?
The core concept of the SCARF model stands on the five pillars: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness. Minimizing threats and maximizing positive thoughts are the best ways to use this model. The concept is especially useful for international students while studying and working in a multicultural environment.
The students need to gain confidence by overcoming all the threats so that they could develop a good understanding with their classmates. The model proves to be advantageous in team leadership.
The team leaders can empower their group members by allowing them to make decisions independently. In this way, new ideas will emerge, and the entire team will be able to perform better. In the fear-free environment, individuals work comfortably. Team members give their best when they work on their initiative.