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Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,368 ratings  ·  150 reviews
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 social context—a factor so strong that it can alter DNA replication. He defines an ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 17th 2008 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2008)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  1,368 ratings  ·  150 reviews

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Morgan Blackledge
Apr 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 being I have read in
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Simon Cleveland, PhD
Apr 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, sociology
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
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
Sep 11, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was somehow not what I was expecting but also exactly what I was expecting. I suppose it encompassed what I was expecting with what felt like two or three other books tossed on.

While it talked about loneliness (quite a lot), it also went through evolutionary psychology, primate behavior, gentrification, online social behaviors, genetics, 5x more studies than I anticipated, isolated human tribal behavior, parenting attachment styles, religion, wealth inequality...YOU NAME IT. I fell
Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this incredibly interesting and have begun to consciously pay more attention to some of the waves of feelings and words. A lot of meanings and feelings are textualized in a way that feels like an aha moment of sorts. I wasn’t into the last chapter as the previous two but I enjoyed how this book relied on research and experiments.
Nov 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aryeh Levine
Jul 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I came to the book less out of curiosity and more as someone with a problem to solve, which added more emotional investment and urgency to my read. I wanted solutions but would settle for deeper understanding, which is the beginning of most good problem-solving ideas.

Perhaps the most impactful insight of the book for me personally was what you listed as point #3- the downward spiral. Understanding how and why loneliness begets loneliness was a significant shift for me in terms of how I
Jun 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sciences-etc
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I read/skimmed this for my thesis paper.

This had some great data on loneliness and what various studies have concluded. It is riddled with Darwinist thinking, but that is to be expected. It shows that relationships are necessary for our own health. The conclusion? We are made for social relationships and so we need to pursue them (and not just for what I can get, but also for what I can give). The final chapter contains a fascinating look at how church communities provide the exact dynamic that
Freesiab (Bookish Review)
3.5. While parts of this book were fascinating other parts just languished. Even though studies and statistics were used to quantify the effects of loneliness on an individual I still felt that the perimeters used still included stress, which are well known to cause similar outcomes. Is it possible to study loneliness without stress. I’m not sure after reading this book but many of the hypothesis were very interesting and I personally felt that they rang true in my own life.
Nov 30, 2010 rated it it was ok
Secretly, a self-help book hidden among neuroscience prose and monkey-experiment narrative.
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Muhtasim by: Kurzgesart
Shelves: non-fiction
As an introvert I wanted to enjoy the main idea and i did.The crux of the book is that loneliness is a feeling like hunger and pain evolved to warn us that something is wrong with us.
It also talks about why social connection is important using experiments and make comparisons between humans ,chimps and bonobos.Loneliness is actually a root cause to many health problems.
Social isolation can result in a self perpetuating downward spiral and leave us at a vulnerable state.
I came to know about this
a materialistic study of the effect of loneliness on health with little psychological analysis and guides to over come it .
Ben Zimmerman
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
I read this book for our neuroscience bookclub, and I was initially very excited because John Cacioppo was a bit of a legend in the field of psychophysiology. I thought the book was quite weak actually, and I think that this boils down to two main reasons.

The first reason is just because of where the research is. There is, apparently, a lot of research about how bad loneliness ends up being for one's health, and how loneliness produces a sort of negative feedback loop. Most of the good
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
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 ...more
I found this book because the author was quoted in the April 2018 Psychology Today cover story. I really enjoyed the writing style, and the first 100 pages or so of this book. After that I found myself noticing that I felt like I was reading the same information over and over again. I think the topic is valuable and the authors had a great concept but it wasn't enough to keep me reading until the end. I flipped ahead to see if something new was coming, and lo, it all looked the same.
Tomas Vik
May 16, 2019 rated it liked it
The book describes important psychological concepts in a great detail and relies on research. It introduced me into a very complex concept of loneliness and it even suggests some very basic ways to fight loneliness.

But. The concepts could have been described in 100 pages instead of repeating almost the same thought multiple times.

Description of the problem is very comprehensive, suggested solution is not.
David Kadavy
Aug 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"Social isolation has an impact on health comparable to the effect of high blood pressure, lack of exercise, obesity, or smoking." This book is full of anecdotes and research that explains the silent killer that is chronic loneliness.
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Showcasing the NEED for social connection in an increasingly disconnected world.
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant book. So insightful on so many different levels. Highly recommend to better understand the feelings of loneliness.

- "When we feel isolated we perceive ourselves as doing all we can on behalf of our relationships even if all objective evidence indicates otherwise."
- "The secret to gaining access to social connection and social contentment is being less distracted by one's own psychological business, especially the distortions based on feelings of threat."
- "Other negative states
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
"The eminent American psychiatrist Henry Stack Sullivan described loneliness as an experience 'so terrible that it practically fables clear recall.' For young people especially, he said, the fear of ostracism is 'the fear of being accepted by no one of those whom one must have as models for learning how to be human. It is no wonder that loneliness evokes such feelings of dread, or that the young are often so desperate to connect with peers that they sacrifice their own identity as well as their ...more
Andrew Pregnall
Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection is a wonderful popular science monograph that details our current understanding of loneliness. John T. Cacioppo is a talented science writer capable of distilling complex scientific/psychological studies into understandable prose for lay-readers, and he does so without overstating the implications of any research results. This made the book quite enjoyable to read.

The first two-thirds of Loneliness discusses the evolutionary origins,
Fitrisia Indah
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: self
I read this book in conjunction with 'Solitude' by Anthony Storr. These two are the first non-fiction books I've read so far in this topic.

'Solitude' puts forward some cases where social isolation to be a prerequisite condition for creative geniuses to prosper and other good things, somehow a bit romantic, about being alone with yourself. It talks about Newton, Wagner and more recluse artists and writers. On the other hand, 'Loneliness' is more brutal and pragmatic in its deliverance. It is
Nut Meg
Jun 26, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a great example of a book with a genuinely explanatory sub-title. It is primarily about how the experience of loneliness is a natural byproduct of our social nature. As the authors explain, humans are "obligatorily gregarious." We are hardwired to desire the company of others because of the safety that comes with belonging. Loneliness is a warning signal from our brains that we are at risk, whether literally (via isolation) or emotionally. He also goes into detail about the physiological ...more
Nadz HA
Oct 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Helps me to understand more on why I do feel lonely from time to time, but its just a short duration.
I read this book in search of understanding why I feel that way sometimes, and as a major DIY person, to teach my mind on how to overcome this next time "lonely" makes a visit. I'm an MD but I dont fancy a visit to psychiatrist.

Basically what i get from this book is:
-Human is a social creature. ADMIT it! You're lying when u say your okay being alone.
-its normal to feel lonely now and then-
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
After reading the author's obituary...he died recently, at the way-too-early-age of 66...I decided to read this book. Which, honestly, is pretty dang goth.

"I'm reading a book about loneliness." -Sigh.- "I heard about it because the author died." -Sigh.-

Honestly, though, this was a remarkably helpful book. It explores the psychological and physiological impacts of sustained human isolation, a condition that defines the lives of more and more human beings in our atomized, individualistic culture.
Kev Willoughby
Aug 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Started off with some great quotes, intriguing concepts, and thought-provoking scenarios of how people encounter and process loneliness. The personal vignettes near the beginning of each chapter were compelling. However, the book quickly became very heavily focused on scientific terminology and brain anatomy. It became difficult to stay awake through some of the middle of the book because the personal connection to real people and their struggles faded to the background.

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John T. Cacioppo was the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor of Psychology and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, and Director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, University of Chicago.
“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.” 10 likes
“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
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