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"Lonely individuals want to connect with other people," Cacioppo theorizes, "but they also expect to be ultimately rejected or negatively evaluated. So they engage in self-protective behavior." That preemptive defensiveness can elicit the very responses they fear most: Studies out of the University of Minnesota, in which people were given information about a stranger they were about to meet, demonstrated that our assumptions affect our interactions. For instance, if the subjects were told the stranger was aggressive—even if he wasn't—they would pick up on certain cues, ignoring others, and their behavior would unknowingly evoke aggressive behavior from the stranger, reinforcing their initial suppositions.
is even more striking: 13 to one.

Along with this defensive sensitivity, the lonely tend to remember more social cues about encounters, according to studies at Northwestern University. This could be a vestige of being alone on a Neolithic plain, where a solitary person would be ever vigilant for danger. But today this capacity for hyperobservation coupled with their tendency to negatively interpret information guarantees that the lonely retain more "proof" of others' retreat, which not only confirms their view of being alone in an unfriendly world but informs their future behavior, further transforming them into the tense and anxious people Weiss first observed some 30 years ago.

"We're much more social architects of our world than we realize," says Cacioppo. "This fear of being rejected means the lonely don't open up. They also tend to select relationships badly. They're looking for the quick fix. With anybody." But easy friendships aren't always the most satisfying. The lonely stay in these substandard relationships to protect themselves from complete isolation. They find themselves at offices or cocktail parties, over-40 softball games or continuing ed courses, and because there are people in their lives, they often don't ever realize that the lack of intimate connection in their relationships reinforces a sense of not being understood or cared for in a significant way.

This kind of disconnection is, not surprisingly, often inescapably bound up with depression and results in a terrible feedback loop—the lonelier people feel, the more morose they become, leading to less and less social effort, which calls down more unhappiness on their head. But as intertwined as loneliness and depression are, researchers have discovered that they are not the same thing. As Russell explains it, "Depressed people are dissatisfied with everything in their life; lonely people are dissatisfied with their relationships." Loneliness is a distinct condition—unfortunately, a condition that has been found to be a huge causal factor of depression. Cacioppo's research has shown that a lonely woman has an eight times greater likelihood of becoming depressed than one who's not. For men, the incidence

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