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Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection Hardcover – August 17, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
A magnificent exposé. — Frans de Waal
Wise, beautifully written, and often funny . . . a tour-de-force. — Shelley E. Taylor, professor of psychology, University of California, Los Angeles
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book! Just what I needed as a reference for my book in progress "Beyond The Warrior.". It illustrates well the multiple dangers of isolation to human health.Published 6 days ago by Robert Speake
Excellent. Has a wonderful chapter on the brain pathways related to human contact.Published 2 months ago by Judith Damerow
Great book! Will help us undertand our parents and ourselves (in the near future)!Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
I'm extremely impressed by the thoroughness of research that went into this. The well-qualified authors explain everything clearly and make a strong case for the importance of... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Tantra Bensko
Reading Loneliness when I was lonely validated what I felt in my body. That validation calmed me in a way that helped me find the path to connection. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Dee Wagner
I am torn about this book, hence my three star rating.
On one hand, this book does an excellent job demonstrating the extent to which people are social and the extent to... Read more