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Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  623 ratings  ·  82 reviews

A pioneering neuroscientist reveals the reasons for loneliness and what to do about it.

John T. Cacioppo’s groundbreaking research topples one of the pillars of modern medicine and psychology: the focus on the individual as the unit of inquiry. By employing brain scans, monitoring blood pressure, and analyzing immune function, he demonstrates the overpowering influence of
Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Published (first published 2008)
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Full Disclosure: I am an introvert. Full fledged introvert. I have a general disdain for the part of the ego that desires acceptance from other people. I feel a need to rebel and quiet that part of the self. And like most introverts, I do not equate being alone with loneliness. I also have what Ainsworth calls a non-attached attachment type.

I do however do not wish to succumb to the extreme of my personality type. I wanted to make sure I was not being obstinately clinging to my introverted incl
Simon_Cleveland_Ph.D. Simon_Cleveland_Ph.D.
I just concluded reading this book. Bottom line: human beings are designed to seek meaningful (keyword here is meaningful) relationships. It's no wonder that studies of regular church-goers show they live longer than their counterparts- the more they are united by a common idea and maintain a healthy relationship between each other in a meaningful manner, the more their physiologies are encapsulated from stresses and wear and tear of loneliness. I recommend this book.

Also, interesting to note fr
This is the first book I've read in a long time that has pretty radically rearranged the way I think about a lot of things.

I came across it while reading through all the U.S. Psychology department labs; it's written by head of the dept at U. Chicago. It's awesome to read a (readable) cognitive book actually written by one of the lead researchers, instead of just technical papers or pop books by someone else, or even pop books by researchers on topics they're not involved in directly. I appreciat
Morgan Blackledge
Loneliness Notes:

Full disclosure. I never feel lonely. I love being alone. I'm alone right now. It rules. As a serious self realizer/homebody/introvert my dander goes up when psychologists (or anyone else) challenge my need for quality alone time. I don't give a fuck what anyone says. I need it. I suffer tremendously when I don't have it. Fuck all y'all.

That being said, I found this book to be very helpful and informative. One of the best, most eye opening books on human motivation and well bein
I enjoyed this book.

Summary of the cover:

I wish the authors had given a little more prominence to the subtitle, "Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection" - which sounds enough like an exposition on psychology that it could be used to impress others with your intellectual voracity - but no...instead, the main title of "Loneliness" pretty much ruled out reading this book in public, since that sounds a lot more like a self-help book / desperate-cry-for-attention than I was really comfortabl
May 03, 2010 Sasha rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: health, relationships
Even if you don't think of yourself as lonely, you may still find this engagingly written, scientific book to be of interest. This book is not so much about the painful emotion of loneliness. It's really about sufficient and insufficient meaningful social connection.

We each have different forms and degrees of social needs. But virtually all of us have those social needs built deeply into our bodies, as we evolved a long time ago as social animals, dependent on cooperation for our survival. When
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
ياسمين خليفة
When I read the title of the book I thought it is about why people feel lonely and how to cure loneliness . It turns out that the book talks about why social connection is important using experiments and make comparisons between humans and Chimps .Although I felt depressed while reading the booking, I learnt from it how loneliness affect people's behavior(it makes them more hostile and defensive ). there are few tips on how to be less lonely but I wish the author could explain why someone feel l ...more
Disappointing. This book started out interestingly, exploring the human brain and how it processes loneliness. Then it got into social connection in general, how much different people need on various levels. I kept waiting for the "how to stop feeling lonely" section, but it never came.

Then I went on vacation, leaving this book behind. When I returned, he was talking about bonobos and chimps, and it all fell apart. It had crumbs of jumbled disparate advice, mostly super-simplistic for reaching o
Gregg Sapp
Of the varied behavioral maladies currently in vogue – from OCD to bipolarity to chronic fatigue, and others – mere loneliness often gets short shrift. Even in an age when science is pleased to attribute genetic causes to almost every mood disorder, loneliness is still generally seen as an option, or a byproduct of other issues. Further, to the degree that it is seen as a choice, those who suffer from loneliness are regarded as in control of their own condition. They wouldn’t be lonely unless th ...more
I had too high of hopes for this one. I am a psychotherapist and read it to hopefully illuminate the lived experience of loneliness, to better aid me in understanding a client who suffers from extreme feelings of loneliness. Unfortunately, I found this more of a review of past studies, many of which are tangentially related to loneliness, and explicitly related to depression, attachment, and modern life. I was aware of most of these studies already.

In this book, the following factors make a per
Daniel Ziegelbauer
I agree with many of the other reviews of this book that it begins well by exploring the nature of loneliness and the cyclical relationship it has with depression. But then it wanders into a broad review and documentation of various social connections that although interesting and convincingly could be related, fails to present a compelling and understanding case as a remedy for this ever increasing societal ailment. In fairness, it is clear work continues to fully grasp this deeply personal and ...more
I'm on my summer holiday and taking care of 5 cats in a beautiful spot with many trees, a large pond, a family of eight Canada geese--mother, father, and six goslings--and a beautiful Blue Heron who is fascinating to watch. It amazes me it can fly with those long, long legs.

I have brought many books with me to read on my holiday. I sit out on the deck overlooking the pond, with cats lolling everywhere, and read and watch birds.

The first book I read was Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for S
Christine Jackson
This book is well-written and intellectually challenging, but not exactly what I was looking for. There's way too much emphasis on describing the various experiments and research conducted that proves the main premise of the book--that loneliness is bad for our emotional and physical health. I don't disagree with the premise or with using scientific research to help elucidate the effects of loneliness on the human organism. I do disagree with spending so much of the book describing these experim ...more
Secretly, a self-help book hidden among neuroscience prose and monkey-experiment narrative.
Tony Go
There he went. Number 1215. Number 1215, the new tenant in the apartment across from hers. Jenevie walked a lot slower to the elevator, laundry basket in hand, to avoid being in the same elevator as number 1215. She might have found 1215 incredibly attractive, but she lacked the proper attire (it was laundry day!) not to mention self-esteem to share the confines of an elevator with him for fifteen floors. It's not that Jenevie wasn't pretty, on the contrary, Jenevie had benefited well from her u ...more
Matthew Ng
Its a book that kept repeating its point:

1. Loneliness drive you hostile and critical to others - The besieged feeling (on-guard!)

2. Loneliness keeps you negative and repellant to social attachment, even though you grave for it (fear of disappointment vs anxiety of no attachment)

3. Loneliness keeps you making bad health and lifestyle decisions for your self.

4. Loneliness keeps you occupied that leaves little space for the Third Adaption - System 2 thinking - adapting to one another: Co-regulati
I checked this out because Cacioppo is one of the authors of "Emotional Contagion". "Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection" is a fantastic book that is potentially a public service, if loneliness is truly the threat to public health that Cacioppo illustrates for us. I learned a lot about myself from this book and if you also have a tendency to isolate you will be thankful for these insights. I loved the evolutionary perspective that is laid out, basically the pain of loneli ...more
Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection is a deftly researched book on a condition that may affect us all at one point or another. The book delves deeply on the effects of loneliness and also how those who suffer from it may find ways to overcome their loneliness. The book goes over many scientific disciplines--including zoology, biology, anthropology, and of course psychology. I do think it spends too much on animal comparisons, they look at primate social constructs in deta ...more
A book that mainly deals with the scientific underpinnings of the emotion of loneliness, as derived from psychological and neuroscientific research. Four stars because of the interesting subject matter and the fact that reading this book may actually make me a 'better' person, something that I had no intention of happening when I started reading it.

I can do without the vignettes and stories that are sprinkled throughout. They serve as illustrations of various concepts, and are a mixture of comp
I read this book after reading an article on the neuroscience of leadership by Dr. David Rock that referenced Mr. Cacioppo and Mr. Patrick's work. Basically, these two authors bring into account recent findings in neursocience that show that the same region of the brain that responds to social exclusion is the same region of the brain that responds to physical pain. He traces the reason for the brain's response to social exclusion to the fact that we are, first and foremost, social animals (perh ...more
Sergei Moska
In a nutshell, Cacioppo argues that (1)loneliness is an experience that comes about from our lacking meaningful social connections, and that (2)while we may understand loneliness in cognitive terms, it is actually the result of an interplay between cognitive functions and lower-order impulses emanating from our "primate" (limbic) brain. Cacioppo argues from the perspective of evolutionary biology, and central to his thesis is that the need for meaningful social connection is intimately tied to a ...more
I'm not certain I buy the conclusions of this book, though I'm certainly in no position to dispute the research they claim backs it up. They gave only the briefest of nods to the fact that one can be alone without being lonely, but the implication seemed to be -- overall -- that being alone means being lonely, that human beings are "hardwired" to seek companionship and that failure to achieve it results in everything from an early death to a poor diet.

I suppose I could continue on at some lengt
This book explains in detail what Darwin began to explore in an under-appreciated major work, The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals. In essence, loneliness is an evolved response to encourage individuals to seek out fellowship because it promotes the survival of their progeny. It stands modern Machiavellian-like interpretations of the "survival of the fittest" on their head by pointing out empirical results that show selfish pursuit of individual interest at the cost of others will reduce ...more
Elena (Gone Bookserk)
A Gone Bookserk Perspective

I bought this book years ago. I stumbled on it coincidentally at a really low time in my life, and years later every once in a while I'd go back to it to understand some things better. There's something really genuine and true about this book.

The book speaks about a very specific group of individuals who continuously and chronically feel out of place with the world they live in. As a result, a state of loneliness incurs.

"Which contributes more to personality, nature o
The main thesis of this book is that loneliness is a feeling like hunger and pain – evolved to warn us that something is wrong with us. It’s not just some abstract, wistful feeling. It’s trying to tell us that something is not right and we need to pay attention to it and correct it. As a species, we evolved to need companionship physically. The degree to which we need social connection is largely genetic and varies from person to person, but regardless of the level of the need, if we go below ou ...more
I have a lot further to go but I think this is a very brilliant author on a topic where he can bring his thoughts down to the layperson without doing a disservice to either him or his reader.

This is an investigation into loneliness, about how the need for social connection is so fundamental in humans that without it we fall apart, down to the cellular level. Cacioppo notes that, "over time, blood pressure climbs and gene expression falters. Cognition dulls; immune systems deteriorate. Aging acce
Well, even though strictly this book is not self-help, I treat it as such because of the last two chapters, which deal with how to "EASE your way into social connection". The book itself is a very interesting book. Although at times its underlying sentiments may sound corny and old-fashioned, the book rings true for me. I was especially struck at how many strands of thinking converge into the old maxim of "do unto others what you would like to be done to you", and that all these roads may unite ...more
A scientific investigation of loneliness that spends much time circling around the general conclusions that people are social animals and that loneliness has adverse effects. There is certainly more detail there, but the constant rehearsing of scientific studies among rats, primates, and college students let us see every facet of these arguments. There are interesting conclusions here and the writing is clear, but it also seems simpleminded. The historian in me wanted to shade the entire negativ ...more
Dvir Oren
Good pointers for introverts like me. Being alone for long periods of time (more than 1 day) isn't good for you.

Damn didn't know hospice nurses were very happy. I'd like to volunteer in a hospice for a few weeks just to see what it's like. Should be a very interesting experience.

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John T. Cacioppo is the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago and past president of the Association for Psychological Science. He lives in Chicago.

William Patrick, formerly the science editor at Harvard University Press and the founding editor of The Journal of Life Sciences, lives near Gloucester, Massachusetts."
More about John T. Cacioppo...
Discovering Psychology: The Science of Mind Handbook of Psychophysiology Social Neuroscience: Key Readings Social Neuroscience: People Thinking about Thinking People Foundations in Social Neuroscience

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“When we are lonely we not only react more intensely to the negatives; we also experience less of a soothing uplift from the positives.” 9 likes
“Real relief from loneliness requires the cooperation of at least one other person, and yet the more chronic our loneliness becomes, the less equipped we may be to entice such cooperation.” 5 likes
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