Top critical review
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Interesting research and disorganized writing
on January 23, 2010
There is some interesting novel research in this book (some of which you can read about online by searching for the main author "John Cacioppo"). Without a doubt John Cacioppo has done some extremely interesting work.
This book describes studies that hint at loneliness reducing our ability to tune out distractions, reducing our ability to complete "logical reasoning tasks", and reducing our ability to pursue long term rewards rather than immediate gratification. It is fascinating. I also found the descriptions of the physical effects of loneliness on health to be extremely interesting (increased morning cortisol and adrenaline etc.).
So if the research was what I was rating, I'd give it 5 stars. But unfortunately, I am reviewing the book and must give it 3 stars. Because, although not difficult in terms of content, this book is very poorly written. It goes off on useless tangents only marginally related to loneliness. I would be happy to read about chimp and bonobo society, in this particular book, if the authors actually related it in any way to the topic at hand which is loneliness. But the astounding thing is: they don't! They just drop one line in about loneliness in that chapter and think that is relating it! And half the book is like that, going off on one irrelevant tangent after another.
I think perhaps a coherent connection between all these different topics may exist in the author(s) head(s) but that they don't do a good job of drawing that connection out for us, and so we just end up with a bunch of scatter-shot irrelevancies. I wonder if, ironically, the incoherence of this book is caused by it's dual authorship. If so I don't think it in any way refutes the main point of this book which is that people function better when socially well integrated and socially content. But it does serve as an example of where two heads are not better than one!
This is a popular science book and not a self-help book, and so it is light on advice on what to do about loneliness. I both very much respect the scientific orientation of this book (when it stays on topic) and I wish it gave more advice. I guess I wish this book filled a few more of the pages it wasted on unrelated tangents with advice on what to actually do about loneliness. The advice it does give, while supposedly based on the science in this book, is again only marginally connected to it by the author(s), and so is in my opinion, at best mediocre. I think there is a lot of wasted potential there.
So in summary: the studies in this book may be a diamond, heck they may be the Hope diamond. They really are novel and startling to me. But they are lying in the landfill called this book. Is it my executive control or is this book disorganized? I think the correct answer is: this book is disorganized!