Loneliness within a nomological net: An evolutionary perspective

John T. Cacioppo, Louise C. Hawkley, John M. Ernst, Mary Burleson, Gary G. Berntson, Bita Nouriani, David Spiegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

631 Scopus citations


Loneliness is characterized by feelings of social pain and isolation and has both heritable and unshared environmental underpinnings. An evolutionary theory of loneliness is outlined, and four studies replicate and extend prior research on the characteristics of lonely individuals. Studies 1 and 2 indicate that loneliness and depressed affect are related but separable constructs. Study 3 confirms that lonely, relative to nonlonely, young adults are higher in anxiety, anger, negative mood, and fear of negative evaluation, and lower in optimism, social skills, social support, positive mood, surgency, emotional stability, conscientiousness, agreeableness, shyness, and sociability. The set of six personality factors associated with loneliness (surgency, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, shyness, and sociability) do not explain the associations between loneliness and negative mood, anxiety, anger, optimism (pessimism), self-esteem, and social support, as each association remained statistically significant even after statistically controlling for these personality factors. Study 4 used hypnosis to experimentally manipulate loneliness to determine whether there were associated changes in the participants' personality and socioemotional characteristics. Results confirmed that loneliness can influence the participants' personality ratings and socioemotional states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1054-1085
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Research in Personality
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2006


  • Depression
  • Hypnosis
  • Loneliness
  • Personality
  • Self-esteem
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • General Psychology


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