Isolation can take a toll

Loneliness : human nature and the need for social connection

Cacioppo, John T. by John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick W.W. Norton, 2008
317p, 9780393061703 $25.95

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.
Reviewer: D. S. Dunn, Moravian College
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – Psychology
Choice Issue: Nov 2008