Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection

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Overview

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 unrecognized syndrome, chronic loneliness; brings it out of the shadow of its cousin, depression; and shows how this subjective sense of social ...
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Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection

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Overview

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 unrecognized syndrome, chronic loneliness; brings it out of the shadow of its cousin, depression; and shows how this subjective sense of social isolation uniquely disrupts our perceptions, behavior, and physiology, becoming a trap that not only reinforces isolation but can also lead to early death. He gives the lie to the Hobbesian view of human nature as a "war of all against all," and he shows how social cooperation is, in fact, humanity's defining characteristic. Most important, he shows how we can break the trap of isolation for our benefit both as individuals and as a society.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Top-notch science writing: stimulating and useful information conveyed in accessible prose." —Kirkus Starred Review
Publishers Weekly

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 authorsa' advice for dealing with loneliness-psychotherapy, positive thinking, random acts of kindness-are overly general, but this isna't a self-help book. It does present a solid scientific look at the physical and emotional impact of loneliness. 12 illus. (Aug. 25)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Neuroscientist Cacioppo (psychology, Univ. of Chicago) and science writer Patrick present a solid scientific analysis of the physical and emotional impact of loneliness on the human body, looking to variations in brain scans, blood pressure, and immune function to demonstrate the overpowering influence and broader social context of this factor they find strong enough to alter DNA replication. Three-time Audie® Award winner Dick Hill's (www.dickhill.com) impressive, steady narration helps maintain interest in this esoteric, highly specialized, research-based text, which may appeal more to established and student psychiatrists and psychologists than to the lay reader. Recommended mainly for university libraries supporting these fields. [Audio clip available through www.tantor.com.-Ed.]
—Dale Farris

Kirkus Reviews
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 andPatrick'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. Agent: Lisa Adams/The Garamond Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400138128
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/1/2008
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Library - Unabridged CD
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 6.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

William Patrick is the editor in chief of the Journal of Life Sciences.

Reader of over four hundred audiobooks, Dick Hill has won three coveted Audie Awards and been nominated numerous times. He is also the recipient of several AudioFile Earphones Awards. AudioFile includes Dick on their prestigious list of Golden Voices.

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Table of Contents

Pt. 1 The lonely heart

Ch. 1 Lonely in a social world 3

Ch. 2 Variation, regulation, and an elastic leash 20

Ch. 3 Losing control 35

Ch. 4 Selfish genes, social animals 52

Ch. 5 The universal and the particular 73

Ch. 6 The wear and tear of loneliness 92

Pt. 2 From selfish genes to social beings

Ch. 7 Sympathetic threads 113

Ch. 8 An indissociable organism 128

Ch. 9 Knowing thyself, among others 145

Ch. 10 Conflicted by nature 169

Ch. 11 Conflicts in nature 182

Pt. 3 Finding meaning in connection

Ch. 12 Three adaptations 201

Ch. 13 Getting it right 221

Ch. 14 The power of social connection 247

Notes 271

Index 297

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2009

    Excellent information, well-written

    The first few chapters worried me because the anecdotes seemed overdone and poorly written, but then the writing moved into the authoritative, clean, concise style that lasted the rest of the book, so I enjoyed the writing overall. There is a ton of interesting information, lots of research and studies explained in the book. This isn't a one-night read, some of the information takes a little while to process so don't be surprised if you read some of the paragraphs several times, especially if you're surrounded by distractions. But definitely worth the time it took to get through it.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 11, 2009

    Should be mandatory reading for everyone interested in fixing Western Culture.

    This is a remarkable book, which I read twice the week I bought it. It offers insights on the human condition which are dead on. As I read this, I felt as though the authors had been watching my life and they perfectly described how life has felt for me.<BR/><BR/>I read this book in conjunction with _The 3rd Chimpanzee_ and _The Nature of Paleolithic Art_. This book is very meaningful when viewed in an anthropological, pre-historic context. Our current way of life is so ingrained that to truly appreciate this book's message, you need to step back and see the world you live in as a little alien. I found that by thinking of "cave men", my perspective altered a little and I got more from this fine book than I might have otherwise.<BR/><BR/>I loved this book. However, I would recommend this book to only those who are able to read academic and dry writing.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2009

    Verification of what we know almost on a cellular lever

    Loving this book and still reading it! So many insights into why I've chosen the paths I've taken. Now, If I could just figure out how to correct my trajectory. I highly recomment this book as required reading for all "loners". It does as it promises and sheds light on why humans must have social connections. Many of the atrocities we see far too often would never have happened if the individuals responsible had not been socially inept.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2009

    Great reference for anyone who wants to understand the etiology and maintenance of loneliness and the accompanying behavioral and emotional symptoms

    Provides insight into maladaptive behaviors in the context of loneliness and the innate drive to connect with others. The authors clearly connect how fear of, and experience with loneliness works towards the progression of isolating behaviors, which further isolate and confirm feelings of loneliness. The suggestions for interventions is not as comprehensive as the explanation of the etiology of the feeling and experience.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2014

    Agree whole-heartedly with the 4 reviewers below. Eye opening d

    Agree whole-heartedly with the 4 reviewers below. Eye opening description of a phenomenon which has been the neglected little brother of depression. Each paragraph is loaded with an epiphany about this monster that's been hiding in plain sight. Although this book is weak on the therapeutic side, it's been a tremendous service in educating us about the complexity and prevalence of our loneliness epidemic. I like how the authors meld together anthropology, experimental psychology, and pathophysiology. It's demanding reading, and thus a little slow-going. But, it's essential material for therapists, public health &amp; policy leaders, the loved one's of the lonely, and the sufferers themselves.

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