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103 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shedding light on the pain that is loneliness...
From [...]

I just finished reading Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, which is coming out towards the end of August. The book summarizes, in very accessible terms, thirty years of work by John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago and his colleagues.

It's initially hard to get past the title. William Patrick, John's...
Published on August 18, 2008 by K. Freberg

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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting research and disorganized writing
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...
Published on January 23, 2010 by hapathy


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103 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shedding light on the pain that is loneliness..., August 18, 2008
From [...]

I just finished reading Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, which is coming out towards the end of August. The book summarizes, in very accessible terms, thirty years of work by John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago and his colleagues.

It's initially hard to get past the title. William Patrick, John's coauthor, relates how a friend reading an early manuscript found the word "loneliness" to be disturbing, even more so than "rape," "murder," or "death." This reaction fits perfectly with the major theme of the book-we humans are a very social bunch, and being cut off from other people, as in solitary confinement, might be the very worst punishment of all.
What I especially liked about the book is the constant, seamless integration of what we call "perspectives" in psychology, harkening back to William James. In other words, the neuroscience, social psychology, and cognitive science is all woven together so that you get the big picture. In other writing, John has compared psychology to a symphony, with the different perspectives contributing to the whole of our understanding just as the score, musicians, instruments, and conductor join together to produce fantastic music. He and William have definitely succeeded in bringing this integration to the study of loneliness. Given the all-too-frequent Balkanization of psychology into little subdomains, this approach is refreshing and informative.

Like William's friend, I found myself feeling sad at times while reading the book. I don't consider myself a lonely person, as I am blessed by having a close family and good friends. But I know a lot of lonely people, and reading the various case studies brought these people to mind in a vivid way. The sad mood lifted, however, when John would throw in some of his modest and self-deprecating humor, as in his description of his trip to "Grenada." Enough said. You need to read the book to find out the rest.

In spite of the sober topic, I think many people will jump at the chance to learn more from this book. My mother-in-law, over at our house for lunch, snatched up my copy and asked to borrow it. My daughters are pre-ordering theirs on Amazon. Kristin has mentioned that loneliness is such a huge issue for her soldiers, not only while they deploy, but even more so when they return to families who can't begin to relate to the things they've seen and done in combat. She's hoping that John will take a look at the vulnerability of soldiers to PTSD as a function of their initial loneliness scores, following up on research listed on the Loneliness site.

Best of all, the authors do not stop after describing the origins and implications of loneliness. Instead, there is a careful, thoughtful, step-by-step approach to reducing one's own loneliness. Following the recommended steps is never presented as a magic bullet, or a quick fix, but just a practical way, grounded in good science, to move from point A to point B. No matter how lonely or not lonely you feel, there are suggestions here to make the social aspects of life more meaningful.
Finally, I'd like to end by pointing out that these authors really do practice what they preach. The website for Loneliness has a menu feature called "socialize." In one of the blog entries, William Patrick describes how John insisted that he should be a "full co-author," instead of receiving his usual credits.

For those of you on Facebook, hope you join the Science of Loneliness group. There's something inherently ironic about that statement, but I hope to see you there soon. --Laura Freberg

Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extemely interesting but don't trust the blurbs, January 13, 2009
The best part of this book are the scientific insights about how loneliness works and how it damages people. I learned many things I had never heard of.

I found it easy to read and well-written. It is interesting throughout, although sometimes it strayed far enough from the topic to leave me wondering how it got there. I must admit I didn't read it in one go and sometimes stopped in the middle of a chapter.

One of the blurbs claimed the book was funny. The only thing I found funny is when it compares lonely people, who find it harder to control themselves, to Phineas Gage, a worker who had a metal rod rammed through his brain. There is a nice drawing showing where exactly the rod went through. This is an exceptional feat of black humor, but I'm not sure it's intentional.

Another blurb, by no less than Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi (I love his book 'Finding flow'), claims that after reading the book you will never have to be lonely again. The book does make some attempts at giving advice, but never sounds very convincing. The authors are researchers who excel at understanding how loneliness affects people, but they don't seem to have much experience in helping them. They don't sound like they ever had this problem either.

The end of the book addresses the growing loneliness in the United States, and mentions some ways society has found to cope: mega-churches, virtual communities like Second Life, the corny fad of 'random acts of kindness'. Oh the horror. I've been through times when loneliness was almost unbearable, but I'm not sure I've ever been that hopeless.

I will definitely read that book again.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting research and disorganized writing, January 23, 2010
This review is from: Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection (Paperback)
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!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Challenging Read, But Worth It, March 3, 2011
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This review is from: Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection (Paperback)
In a 2006 report published by the American Sociological Review, 25 percent of the people surveyed felt they had no close friends in whom they could confide. This number doubled the findings of a similar report published in 1985. While I'm pretty lucky - I have several close friends whom I can trust with my personal problems - I have noticed a change in my social life since I moved to California a decade ago. It used to be easy for me to make friends. I would just live my life and somehow bump into like-minded people and develop close friendships. In the past ten years, I've noticed a shift in this. I can still meet people easily enough, but finding meaningful relationships, ones that go beyond small talk or a once-in-a-blue-moon lunch meeting, take a lot longer to gel.

Apparently, I'm not the only person who's having this problem. Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by University of Chicago professor John T. Cacioppo and former Harvard University Press science editor William Patrick use examples of everyday people and their struggles with loneliness. Along with scientific studies, historical anecdotes and a smattering of humor, the authors paint a fully-rounded picture of the mental, emotional, physical and societal issues caused by social isolation.

This isn't the first mainstream book to examine the current dwindling of conventional social outlets in the U.S. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert Putnam, addressed the lack of social connection in America. While Putnam's book looked at the sociological ramifications of Americans not bonding in social groups (like bowling leagues), Cacioppo's book looks at the personal problems caused by nonexistent (or superficial) social interaction. Loneliness can cause physical pain as well as emotional pain, and some it may cause life-threatening problems like heart disease in extreme cases.

The need to relate to others is intrinsic to humans, it's in our genes, Cacioppo writes, peppering the book with examples from sundry characters throughout history. He writes about the only surviving member of an African tribe sent to America to perform in a World's Fair. Shortly thereafter, his tribe back home were killed. Now left alone in the world, he was unable to adjust to a new life in the Christian world. Another story relates the tale of a seemingly affable man who had ulterior motives for that friendliness. The psychological ramifications of childhood trauma, past bad relationships and other emotional disasters eek their way into us so that even as adults, some people have difficulty connecting with others. The stories interwoven in this book illustrate that in real life terms the reader can understand.

For a self-help tips, people struggling with loneliness should check the step-by-step guide in Chapter 13, Getting It Right. It lists a number of ways to work on alleviating loneliness. It's not about segueing from nights watching TV by yourself to being the life of the party; it's about meaningful social connections. As Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection stresses, it's about the quality of relationships, not the quantity.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid science, October 25, 2008
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Not an easy read, but worthwhile. Comprehensive use of evolutionary psychology and neuroscience to explain a lot of what causes psychic pain, as well as attraction and aversion in social settings. Demonstrates that loneliness may well be a more accurate and useful diagnosis than depression or anxiety. Well documented sources. Not an easy-to-read self-help book, but worth the effort because of the understanding that can result.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Good, September 24, 2010
This review is from: Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection (Paperback)
I enjoyed this book as it is well-written and gives the science behind the social problem of loneliness. It shows with good scope the breadth of this problem, its causes, its health/psychological effects and other related issues. You get an overview of the social, psychological and public health studies that have been done in recent years of this phenomenon. The authors also give good suggestions on how the problem can be lessened/treated at the social and individual levels.

Where I had one major problem with the book is the authors' (incompetent) interpretation of the genetics of loneliness. The authors are not geneticists but they use some of the behavioral genetic data on loneliness in their book. Unfortunately they misinterpret such data. For example, there is one part of the book that says something like genetics contributes to half a person's loneliness with the other half coming from our environment. This is referring to the studies of the heritability (as the notion is used in genetics) of loneliness which gives a figure of .50. Anyone who has studied and understood basic college level genetics knows how ridiculous and misleading this claim is. Heritability figures have nothing to do with the genetic contribution to any one person's traits. It is the portion in the variance that genetics contributes within a specific population. It is a (statistical) property of populations, not individuals and we cannot draw quantitative genetic contribution conclusions on behalf of individual people based on such data. I fear that their misleading interpretation of this data will be used to the detriment of those who suffer from loneliness. A person might think that some one individual who has the condition has it because he is at least partially genetically predisposed to have it based on that misleading wording. But such a conclusion cannot be drawn from the actual genetic data. This flaw aside, the positives more than makes up for it.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A revelation, April 19, 2009
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This book was a revelation as to why I've been having troubles in my work life. I've got great personal connections, but have been working in relative isolation for the last year and a half. (Trying to start a nonprofit from a home office.) My great personal connections have helped me to keep going in a very demanding work situation. But I haven't been able to work up to my potential, and have been wondering why it always feels like I'm swimming upstream. Have been feeling professionally isolated, but have kept telling myself to suck it up and deal and get on with the work.

This book has given me the key to the problem--isolation dampens executive function of the brain. So I'm arranging for a business mentor to meet with me regularly. I'm confident this will work because when I earned a PhD, I floundered on my dissertation while working with an advisor who said, "just send me the chapter when its done." Once I switched to someone who would meet with me once a week and seemed genuinely interested in my ideas (i.e., we connected through great idea conversations), I flourished and finished up in good time.

Thanks to the authors! I'm planning to send the book to a number of isolated individuals I know and love... I wish all professors in a position to advise individual work were required to read it, too.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real self-helper, December 6, 2008
Forget gimmicky self-help books. This is a non-ficiton, scientific approach to alienation and loneliness. I bought it on audible because it was on sale, and was surprised how it pulled me in. Great book. So insightful
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I was disappointed, March 20, 2013
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This review is from: Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection (Paperback)
This book is well written but not what I was looking for. It goes into great detail on the causes of loneliness. I was hoping for advice on how to deal with isolation. I'm sure others will find this very good.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you for this wonderful book, September 9, 2008
I wanted to thank you and Dr. Patrick for your wonderful book,
Loneliness. I am in the process of reading it and had to put it
down for a moment to write this e-mail. I treat children who
are selectively mute and wrote an article on Selective Mutism
and Self-Regulation, published in the Clinical Social Work
Journal. I had thought that it was the lack of language usage
primarily that created their inability to self-regulate. While
I wrote in a few passing phrases that it was the use of language
in the dyadic relationship that helps to establish the ability
to self-regulate, since beginning to read your book I see that
it is the use of language in connection with others that helps
with this ability. As a result, this population's lack of
language usage that also leads to social isolation contributes
greatly to their inability to self-regulate emotions and
behaviors. Thank you and Dr. Patrick again for helping me to
conceptualize my work better.

All the best, Marian Moldan, LCSW-R
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Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection
Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by John T. Cacioppo (Paperback - August 10, 2009)
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