Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection

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W. W. Norton & Company, Aug 17, 2008 - Science - 336 pages

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 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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User Review  - PeskyLibrary - LibraryThing

We often see loneliness as a weakness. People who are lonely are seen as being needy because they cannot function well without social interaction. However in Loneliness by John T. Cacioppo we see that ... Read full review

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User Review  - Suva - LibraryThing

Cacioppo and Patrick attack the received idea that social connection and empathy are the luxuries we annex onto our workaday existence, and instead show them as essential for human life. Through ... Read full review

Selected pages


Lonely in a Social World
Variation Regulation and an Elastic Leash
Losing Control
Selfish Genes Social Animals
The Universal and the Particular
The Wear and Tear of Loneliness
Sympathetic Threads
An Indissociable Organism
Conflicted by Nature
Conflicts in Nature
Three Adaptations
Getting It Right
The Power of Social Connection

Knowing Thyself among Others

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About the author (2008)

John T. Cacioppo (1951—2018) was a psychology professor at the University of Chicago and director of the university’s Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience. He was the author of more than a dozen books, including Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connections.

William Patrick, former editor for science and medicine at Harvard University Press, is editor in chief of the Journal of Life Sciences. He lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

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