Loneliness Human nature and the need for social connection

John T. Cacioppo

Book - 2008

A pioneering neuroscientist reveals the reasons for chronic loneliness-- which he defines an unrecognized syndrome-- and brings it out of the shadow of its cousin, depression.

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New York, NY : Norton c2008.
Main Author
John T. Cacioppo (-)
Other Authors
William Patrick, 1948- (-)
Physical Description
xiv, 317 p. : ill
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Choice Review

Although this book has two authors, it is largely written in the first person and voice of Cacioppo (Univ. of Chicago), a renowned social psychologist who pioneered the application of neuroscience to the study of social interaction. Turning to the dearth of such interaction, Cacioppo and Patrick (editor in chief, Journal of Life Sciences) demonstrate that loneliness is as much a problem of the body as it is of the mind. Reviewing and integrating years of extensive social-cognitive-neuroscience data collected by Cacioppo and his collaborators, the authors examine the benefits of social connections and the "pain" resulting from their absence. They argue that sustained loneliness is as unhealthy as obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, and other lifestyle problems. Although they offer suggestions for combating isolation (included, in passing, is a four-part model for easing one's way toward social connection), this is not a self-help book but a scientific tour of loneliness through the lens of evolutionary psychology, animal behavior (especially primates), and brain physiology. Accordingly, casual readers seeking a 12-step sort of program will be disappointed, but those interested in multimethod lab and field-based approaches for addressing and answering complex questions about this intriguing social behavior will be rewarded. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty/professionals; general readers. D. S. Dunn Moravian College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Eleanor Rigby might have been in worse shape than the Beatles imagined: not only lonely but angry, depressed and in ill health. University of Chicago research psychologist Cacioppo shows in studies that loneliness can be harmful to our overall well-being. Loneliness, he says, impairs the ability to feel trust and affection, and people who lack emotional intimacy are less able to exercise good judgment in socially ambiguous situations; this makes them more vulnerable to bullying as children and exploitation by "unscrupulous salespeople" in old age. But Cacioppo and Patrick (editor of the Journal of Life Sciences) want primarily to apply evolutionary psychology to explain how our brains have become hard-wired to have regular contact with others to aid survival. So intense is the need to connect, say the authors, that isolated individuals sometimes form "parasocial relations" with pets or TV characters. The authors' advice for dealing with loneliness--psychotherapy, positive thinking, random acts of kindness--are overly general, but this isn't a self-help book. It does present a solid scientific look at the physical and emotional impact of loneliness. 12 illus. (Aug. 25) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Verdict: While this book's title makes the obvious point that people need people in order to thrive, its contents offer scientifically backed evidence to support it. A superb complement to John Bowlby's Loss: Sadness and Depression, this is highly recommended for university and large public library collections. Background: Cacioppo (Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor, Univ. of Chicago; coauthor, Social Neuroscience: Key Readings in Social Psychology) and Patrick, the former editor for science and medicine at Harvard University Press and the current editor in chief of the Journal of Life Sciences, provide fascinating scientific confirmation of what we already know. Introducing relevant evidence derived from closely controlled university experiments, accompanied by anthropological field observations and animal studies, the authors elucidate the underpinnings of human nature and behavior. Particularly fascinating are the discussions of the essential neurophysiology that accounts for the fact that we are hard-wired to seek human companionship.--Lynne F. Maxwell, Villanova Univ. Sch. of Law Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

An absorbing account of our genetically programmed need for each other's company. Cacioppo (Psychology/Univ. of Chicago), president of the Association for Psychological Science, and Patrick, editor in chief of the Journal of Life Sciences, offer a serious but enjoyable study of loneliness and its surprisingly harmful consequences. For millennia, primitive hominids roamed the African savannah in bands that were essential for fending off large carnivores. Few isolated individuals survived long enough to pass on their genes, so our DNA promotes sociability for sound evolutionary reasons. Long before civilization and the death penalty, the worst punishment a criminal could expect was ostracism. "Loner" is a word often seen in articles on serial killers. The authors rock no boats by explaining that personal happiness as well as material success requires the ability to manage the give-and-take of human interaction. They deliver some jolts describing what happens in the absence of social connections. High-tech research and population studies prove that lonely people suffer more than emotional stress. They fall ill more quickly, recover slowly and live shorter lives. While traditional culprits--lack of social support and unhealthy habits--contribute, it's clear that isolation produces disease by impairing immunity, slowing wound repair and accelerating the aging process. Research subjects persuaded that they are unpopular show impaired judgment and a slower ability to solve problems. Those looking for cheerful advice on winning friends, attracting lovers and forging alliances with colleagues should move on to the self-help section of their bookstores, but they should also read Cacioppo and Patrick's work. It provides convincing evidence that lonely people shoot themselves in the foot by harboring irrational fears of those whose friendship they seek. Top-notch science writing: stimulating and useful information conveyed in accessible prose. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.