• Researchers say feelings of loneliness can help people
• Believe it can trigger behavioural changes and a ‘survival instinct’
As Valentine’s Day is upon us, many single people begin to feel a little sorry for themselves.
On a day dominated by couples, this can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, say researchers.
However, don’t worry – they say it could actually be good for you.
‘On the scale of everyday life, it is understandable how something as personally aversive as loneliness could be regarded as a blight on human existence,’ said John Cacioppoat and his fellow researchers at the University of Chicago write in the journal Cognition & Emotion.
‘Research over the past decade suggests a very different view of loneliness than suggested by personal experience, one in which loneliness serves a variety of adaptive functions in specific habitats.
‘Although it may feel like loneliness has no redeeming features, it promotes behaviour change to increase the likelihood of the survival of one’s genes.
‘The pain of loneliness served to prompt us to renew the connections we needed to ensure survival and to promote social trust, cohesiveness, and collective action.’
However, there was also bad news – researchers found the ‘lonely’ are viewed more negatively in terms of their psychosocial functioning and attractiveness.
‘In a social environment non-lonely people form a negative impression towards lonely people, which then affects their behaviour and reinforces the lonely individual’s perceived isolated existence,’ the researchers wrote.
‘Furthermore, individuals rated opposite-gender partners who they expected to be lonely as less sociable, and behaved towards them in a less sociable manner than they did toward partners they expected not to be-lonely.’
The team even say loneliness could be behind many sports fans decision to get behind their team.
‘The emergence of a collective connectedness factor underlying loneliness, therefore, suggests that we may have evolved the capacity for and motivation to form relationships not only with other individuals but also with groups (sports teams) , with the consequence being the promotion of co-operation in adverse conditions (e.g., competition, hunting, warfare).
‘The identification with and investments in the group, in turn, may increase the likelihood of the continuity of the group, its members, and their individual genetic legacy.’