Written by Taylor Ritchey
Cunningham (1979) found that how sunny it is outside significantly affected the gratuity that restaurant customers left for their server. Cunningham (1979) also found that sunny weather makes people more helpful. Participants who were asked to participate in a survey were more likely to comply on sunny days, when compared to compliance on cloudy days (Cunningham, 1979). In fact, sunny weather may also help people be accepted into college. Simonsohn (2007) examined university admission decisions and found that university administrators placed more weight on candidates' academic attributes when they were evaluated on cloudy days; whereas, they put more weight on nonacademic attributes on sunny days.
Tell me More, Tell Me More
In an experiment that was performed by Gueguen (2013), male undergraduate research assistants approached females and asked for their phone numbers. These interactions occurred in a town near the Atlantic coast of France on sunny days or on cloudy days, with average temperature being the same in both conditions. Confederates, who were rated as high in physical attractiveness and were blind to the hypothesis of the experiment, would approach the women and recite the following line: "Hello. My name’s Antoine. I just want to say that I think you’re really pretty. I have to go to work this afternoon, and I was wondering if you would give me your phone number. I’ll phone you later, and we can have a drink together someplace." If the women complied and provided their phone number, the confederates said, “See you soon.” If the women refused to provide their phone number, the confederates said, “Too bad. It’s not my day. Have a nice afternoon!’’ Gueguen (2013) found that the women were more likely to give the men their phone number when they were approached on sunny days.
You Better Shape Up
If you already have a partner, it may brighten both parties' moods to go on a date when the weather is bright and sunny too. The sun leads people to be more generous, more likely to get into college, and more likely to fall in love, so regarding social interactions, it may be best to wait for the perfect sunny day to take action.
Cunningham, M. R. (1979). Weather, mood, and helping behavior: Quasi experiments with the sunshine Samaritan. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 1947–1956.
Guéguen, N. (2013). Weather and courtship behavior: A quasi-experiment with the flirty sunshine. Social Influence, 8(4), 312-319.
Simonsohn, U. (2007). Clouds make nerds look good: Field evidence of the influence of incidental factors on decision making. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 20, 143–152.
Written by Savanna Yelverton
What is a hug?
Hugging is known as a physical expression of affection. Hugs are used to “express reunion after separation”, as a greeting, or as a parting gesture to say goodbye (Pillay, 2010). Over time, hugging has taken many forms, including ones that can be considered uncomfortable. Each type of hug is complex and is used in different situations (Pillay, 2010).
Types of Hugs
The Sideways Hug: This hug is where the pair hug from the side of their body, rather than by facing each other. This type of hug is most often used by men. “As they approach each other, the thought of their bodies colliding becomes a higher priority than the politeness of the hug" (Pillay, 2010). This kind of hug initially feels uncomfortable but provides a sense of relief to both individuals once the hug is over (Pillay, 2010).
The “Pleased to Meet You Belly Button” (PYMBB) Hug: This type of hug is a rare one, but it occurs in instances of an extreme height difference. If two people of varying heights engage in a hug, they may encounter strange body part interactions. For a person who is significantly shorter than the person being hugged, a face and belly button encounter may occur (Pillay, 2010). This hug is characterized by a great amount of discomfort and may occur quickly, as a result.
The Shoulder Hug: Similar to the sideways hug, this type of hug is used between two individuals who are showing appraisal of another’s actions but are not committed to a full expression of affection. This will result in a “shoulder pat with one hand” and a smile (Pillay, 2010). Eye contact is made during this hug, but this is to assure the other that no further affection will be given (Pillay, 2010).
The Elbow Hug: This type of hug is initiated with a smile, and each person’s hands are placed on the elbows of the other. It usually takes place when two people have “a mutual understanding that they do not want to wrinkle each other’s clothes” (Pillay, 2010). Other gestures that commonly accompany this hug include the “cheek squeeze” or a “you look great!” (Pillay, 2010).
The Benefits of Hugging
Another benefit of hugging is its ability to lead to improvements in our physical health. Humans have “pressure receptors” on their skin, and the sensation of being touched activates them. These receptors then “send signals to the vagus nerve,” which can lead to lower blood pressure (Holmes, 2014). Additionally, as shown in an experiment that was performed at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, heart health is also improved by hugging (Holmes, 2014). “Participants who didn’t have any contact with their partners developed a quickened heart rate of ten beats per minute, compared to the five beats per minute among those who got to hug their partners during the experiment” (Holmes, 2014).
Holmes, L. (2014). 7 Reasons Why We Should Be Giving More Hugs. The Huffington Post. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
Pillay, S. (2010). The Art of Hugging: When A Hug Is Not All That It's Cracked Up To Be. Psychology Today. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
Written by Haley Adams
In 1958 Fritz Heider set out to study these triadic interactions and developed the Structural Balance Theory (Hummon & Doreian, 2003). This theory asserts that there must be balanced interactions within the group, and when this balance is disturbed, tension is created within the group, motivating an alteration within the social arrangement to recreate balance. For example, if Kim, Jessica, and Brenda are friends and have mutually positive attitudes towards each other, they begin in a balanced state (see Figure 1). However, one day, Kim becomes upset with Jessica because Jessica started dating the guy who Kim liked. This situation causes tension within the group because although Kim now has a negative attitude towards Jessica and vice versa, Brenda still has positive attitudes towards both of them (see Figure 2). Heider’s (1958) theory leaves Kim with multiple options that are demonstrated in Figure 3.1 and 3.2; she can either change her opinion about Brenda, or she can attempt to change how Jessica feels about her and how she feels about Jessica (Hummon & Doreian, 2003). Both options will recreate balance by either returning the triad to its original state or by excluding one of the triad members.
Solid black lines indicate positive attitudes and interactions.
Solid red lines indicate negative attitudes and interactions.
How can the triad reestablish a balance?
Hummon and Doreian assert that an individual in Kim’s position can only recognize Brenda’s positive connection with Jessica, rather than change it, because Kim is only in control of her own connections (Hummon & Doreian, 2003). This assertion is only true to an extent in regards to real-world applications and situations. Technically, Kim can only control her own connections; however, she can attempt to influence Brenda’s connection with Jessica and cause Brenda's positive feelinsg about Jessica to turn negative in order to dispel the tension in the triad and recreate balance by excluding Jessica from the group (see Figure 3.3). Male relationships tend to be more physical in regards to conflict resolution; whereas, female friendships tend to be “more fractious and unstable” (Besag, 2006). To reestablish the balance in regard to Heider’s (1958) theory, girls tend to use more covert means and relational aggression, such as gossip, to alter another individual's loyalties.
Ultimately, relationships are complicated, and whenever there is an attitude shift within the group, tension occurs between its members. This tension results in another attitude shift having to occur in order to alleviate this tension. Males and females tend to react in different manners in order to achieve balance. Group members need to be aware that their attitudes and actions can extend outside of their relationships and interactions and that other relationships will be affected.
Heider, F. (1958). The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations. John Wiley & Sons.
Hummon, N. P., & Doreian, P. (2003). Some dynamics of social balance processes: bringing Heider back into balance theory. Social Networks, 25(1), 17-49.
Besag, V. (2006). Understanding girls' friendships, fights and feuds: A practical approach to girls' bullying. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).
Written by Bennett Fontenot
Eli J. Finkel, a social psychologist, set out to examine the influence of commitment on forgiveness in romantic relationships. Finkel, Rusbult, Kumashiro, and Hannon analyzed three studies on the topic of betrayal and forgiveness. In any relationship, conflicts arise and are the result of a multitude of causes. Finkel suggests that the violation of relationship norms is one of the more serious threats to a relationship, with betrayal being one of the most difficult obstacles in a relationship (Finkel, Rusbult, Kumashiro, & Hannon, 2002).
The behaviors in which Oliver and Barbara engage decrease their love for one another and cause their marriage to end tragically. Forgiveness is one the most difficult tasks in relationships, and “psychologists’ understanding of forgiveness and betrayal is somewhat limited” (Finkel, Rusbult, Kumashiro, & Hannon, 2002, p. 965).
Commitment and Forgiveness
Finkel et al. outline three reasons for why commitment would influence forgiveness. First, an individual in a relationship may be concerned with long term self-interests. Second, an individual may be concerned with the long-term interests of his or her partner. In committed relationships, individuals become dependent on their partners, and the researchers suggest that higher levels of dependence lead to higher odds of forgiveness. The researchers suggest that if a person has more to lose in a relationship, that person should be more willing to forgive and not hold grudges within the relationship in order to maintain what the person obtains from the relationship (Finkel, Rusbult, Kumashiro, & Hannon, 2002). The third and final aspect that is involved in the influence of commitment on forgiveness is the role of psychological attachment. In a close relationship, “the self and partner may become merged to the extent that departures from self-interest benefit the partner” (Finkel, Rusbult, Kumashiro, & Hannon, 2002, p. 959).
In Study 1, participants were instructed to indicate their reaction to theoretical acts of betrayal. Each participant was primed to react in a certain way. Participants with a high commitment prime were asked questions that promoted dependence and commitment (e.g., “If your relationship were to end in the near future, what would upset you the most about not being with your partner anymore?”; Finkel, Rusbult, Kumashiro, & Hannon, 2002). Participants with a low commitment prime were asked questions that promoted independence and a lack of commitment (e.g., “Describe an activity that you enjoy engaging in when your partner is not around”; Finkel, Rusbult, Kumashiro, & Hannon, 2002).
In Study 2, a cross-sectional survey method was used to analyze forgiveness and commitment in relation to real instances of betrayal. Participants were instructed to think about a time when their partner betrayed them and describe their immediate and long term reactions to the event. Researchers predicted that individuals would be less likely to engage in immediate forgiveness of a betrayal and more likely to engage in behaviors of forgiveness over time (Finkel, Rusbult, Kumashiro, & Hannon, 2002).
Each study revealed evidence that commitment influences forgiveness. It is evident that acts of betrayal have negative influences on close relationships, and the immediate responses to these acts are not positive. However, over time, forgiveness is evident and has been proven to be influenced by commitment. These studies highlight how and why people forgive their partner by revealing that people's level of commitment within a relationship plays a role in their forgiveness within these relationships. The association between commitment and forgiveness was related more to one's intent to persist in the relationship, rather than to a long-term relationship orientation or psychological attachment. In addition, this association was mediated by one's cognitive interpretations of betrayal incidents. Although people tend to resort to self-oriented impulses shortly after a betrayal, those who find motivation to forgive in the longer term do so partially due to pro-relationship motives, which can be promoted by commitment.
Finkel, E. J., Rusbult, C. E., Kumashiro, M., & Hannon, P. A. (2002). Dealing with betrayal in close relationships: Does commitment promote forgiveness? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 956-974.
Written by Makeela Wells
Teen dating violence is an emerging concern that has been brought to the forefront of issues that teens face today. Teen dating violence has both individual and public health concerns and can impact an individual’s health throughout life (Center for Disease Control, 2016). Many teens fail to report teen dating violence due to the fear of embarrassment or shame (Payne, Ward, Miller, & Vasquez, 2013). Additionally, teens may be fearful about telling family and friends that they are dealing with such a traumatic experience. The goal of this blog post is to educate both adolescents and parents about what teen dating violence is, the signs and symptoms that are associated with teen dating violence, and ways to prevent teen dating violence.
What is teen dating violence?
Both male and female adolescents can be victims of teen dating violence. Research shows that roughly 9% of high school students have been physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend (Center for Disease Control, 2016). Several risk factors have been identified that may exacerbate one’s likelihood of being a victim of teen dating violence. Risk factors include the belief that dating violence is acceptable or normal. Teens who suffer from depression, anxiety, and/or substance use are more susceptible to experiencing dating violence (Center for Disease Control, 2016). Early sexual activity and having more than one sexual partner increases the likelihood of teens experiencing dating violence. Lastly, experiencing or witnessing violence in the home and having a friend who is experiencing or has experienced dating violence increases the likelihood of being a victim of teen dating violence (Center for Disease Control, 2016).
Signs of Teen Dating Violence
Warning signs have been identified that determine whether a teen is a victim of dating violence (Payne et al., 2013). These include:
Preventing Teen Dating Violence
How can teen dating violence be prevented? The first step is to provide education about and make both parents and teens aware of the prevalence of teen dating violence. It is imperative that parents and teens understand the risk factors and signs that are associated with teen dating violence. Second, it is important to educate teens about the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships and the consequences of violence for both partners (Payne et al., 2013). A third prevention measure is to teach teens positive relationship skills, including how to cope with challenging emotions and situations and effective communication strategies (Payne et al., 2013). There are also measures that adults (e.g., parents) who are concerned about teen dating violence can utilize: (1) discuss teen dating violence with children before they begin dating; (2) encourage teens to report dating violence; and (3) model behavior that they would like their teens to adopt (Payne et al., 2013).
Additional references: Learn more about Teen Dating Violence (CDC), and take the Dating Violence Quiz.
Center for Disease Control (CDC). (2016). Understanding Teen Dating Violence: Fact Sheet. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
Payne, K. L., Ward, T., Miller, A., & Vasquez, K. (2013). Teen Dating Violence: A Resource and Prevention Toolkit. Alverno College Research Center for Women and Girls. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
Written by Haley Adams
Unfortunately, loving someone does not always result in a happy ending, and “almost nobody gets out of love alive.” (Fisher, 2008). At a certain point, everyone experiences the pain of losing a loved one, and Emily Dickenson described this feeling best when she said, “parting is all we need to know of hell.” If love can result in so much pain, why do we as a society continue to seek it?
Why do we love?
Many single individuals experience the basic human drive to find a suitable mate. Similar to other animals, this drive involves the need to procreate and continue the human species. This drive does, however, differ from the sex drive because the feelings of romantic love motivate and allow an individual to focus their mating energy on one person at a time (Fisher, 2008).
What happens when our love is not returned?
Lucy Brown, a neuroscientist, recognized that three regions of the brain are activated when an individual who had been in love is dumped. The first region is the same area that is associated with intense romantic love, meaning that even after the relationship is terminated, these intense, romantic emotions are still being experienced. In fact, rejection can increase activity in this area, leading to stronger emotional experiences. The second area in which activity increased is the region that is associated with the calculation of gains and losses. This area is also active when an individual is willing to take risks that can result in an enormous gain or loss. The final area in which brain activity was observed is the region that is associated with deep attachment (Fisher, 2008). The combination of the increased activity in these three areas explains the reactions that occur in individuals who experience this rejection. Deep attachment, serious feelings of love, and a willingness to take large risks can help explain the crimes of passion that are often seen in the media.
Is love an addiction?
Additionally, similar to those experiencing addictions, those in love build up a tolerance and begin to crave being with the object of their love more and more as time passes and these emotions grow. When these increasing cravings are unable to be met, the individual in love experiences a form of withdrawal during which they intensely miss his or her partner. Lastly, those who were in love may experience an emotional relapse when attempting to move on after rejection, which can be caused by various triggers, such as a song or a movie that makes the individual think of his or her partner.
Final thoughts on love
The increased activity in the brain, including in the areas that spur intense feelings of love, the assessment of gains and losses, and deep attachment, influences the actions of the individual in love. Similar to other influences on the brain, reactions to love vary from individual to individual. However, the theme of love surrounds society and inspires a large portion of media creation, including the creation of books, movies, music and other forms of art. Without love and the intense feelings it creates, life may seem boring or meaningless to a large portion of society. As Robert Palmer would say, you “might as well face it, you’re addicted to love.”
Fisher, H. (2008, February). The Brain in Love. TED. Retrieved March 5, 2016.
Are Interracial Daters Truly Undesirable or Insecure, Compared to Same-Race Daters? Examining the Personal Attributes of Interracial Daters
Written by Chelsea Ellithorpe
How does society perceive interracial daters?
Due to this prejudice, those in interracial relationships have been seen as less competent and well-adjusted (Lewandowski & Jackson, 2001) and have been said to have lower self-esteem (Shibazaki and Brennan, 1998), indicating that these daters may have turned to interracial dating due to viewing themselves as inferior in the same-race dating pool. This evidence may cause one to think that interracial daters possess undesirable attributes that cause them to turn to a partner of a different race or look down on one another due to the disapproval and prejudice that they face. However, Wu, Chen and Greenberger found that those in interracial relationships rated their partners higher on attractiveness and intelligence than those in same-race relationships did. They hypothesized that due to the social backlash that interracial daters face, partners in these relationships would need to have higher levels of more positive attributes in order to offset the negative effects of this disapproval (Wu, Chen & Greenberger, 2015).
How do interracial daters perceive their partners and themselves?
In the second study, couples were separated, and each partner rated themselves and their partner on these 27 positive attributes. The researchers also used grade point averages as an indicator of intelligence and found that there were no differences in grade point averages between the same-race and interracial couples. The study found that those participants who were in interracial relationships rated their partner more positively on cerebral and attractiveness attributes. In the last study, independent coders rated the attractiveness of each member of the dating couples, and the researchers found that those in interracial relationships were seen as being more physically attractive by the coders.
What does this mean for interracial daters?
These daters each seem to have higher desirability as partners, which may aid them in having the disapproval of society and their social networks. These couples may only decide to date if each partner meets a higher level of desirability than would be sought in a same-race relationship in order to help the couple stick together despite the negative aspects of interracial relationships.
Goyette, B. (2013, May 31). Cheerios Commercial Featuring Mixed Race Family Gets Racist Backlash. The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
Lewandowski, D. A., & Jackson, L. A. (2001). Perceptions of interracial couples: Prejudice at the dyadic level. Journal of Black Psychology, 27, 288–303.
Lewis, R., Ford-Robertson, J., 2010. Understanding the occurrence of interracial marriage in the United States through differential assimilation. Journal of Black Studies, 41, 405–420.
McNamara, R. P., Tempenis, M., & Walton, B. (1999). Crossing the line: Interracial couples in the South. Westport, CT: Greenwood.
Rose, S. F., & Firmin, M. W. (2013). A qualitative study of interracial dating among college students. International Journal of Sociology of Education, 2, 67–92.
Shibazaki, K., & Brennan, K. A. (1998). When birds of different feathers flock together: A preliminary comparison of intra-ethnic and inter-ethnic dating relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 15, 248–256.
Wu, K., Chen, C., & Greenberger, E. (2015). The sweetness of forbidden fruit Interracial daters are more attractive than intraracial daters. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 32(5), 650-666.
Written by Glenda Gilmer
Shows, such as Family Matters and The Cosby Show, attempt to portray what is considered to be the perfect family. These television series demonstrate the values that a good relationship requires. In 2008, the first African American couple became the President and the First Lady of the United States. This event gave America a look into the home of a perfectly happy family. However, there are times when the media focuses on the problems in African American relationships, such as the situation between Chris Brown and Rihanna, and these drastic contrasts in relationship portrayals can make any individual question falling in love.
What qualities promote a healthy relationship?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, aspects of a strong adolescent relationship include respect, good communication, trust, compromise, individuality, anger control, efficient problem solving, fair fighting, understanding, positive self-confidence, honesty, and inspiring each other to be role models (CDC, 2010). After taking each of these qualities into account, additional research questions would need to examine what qualities adolescent couples believe are essential to building a strong relationship. Debnam, Howard, and Garza decided to research how African American adolescent girls illustrate these strong relationships. In their study, they conducted semi-structured interviews with thirty-three 15 to 18 year olds (Debnam, Howard, & Garza, 2014).
What qualities do adolescent African American girls believe promote healthy relationships?
The characteristics that the adolescents mentioned in their study were similar to the characteristics that were provided by the CDC. The main qualities that were not mentioned in the current study were inspiring each other to be role models, efficient problem solving, anger control, and fair fighting. Trust was the most frequently mentioned quality. The girls who participated in the study mentioned that they needed a partner to whom they could reveal their intimate feelings and share their daily activities. Trust was also defined in terms of its counterparts, such as cheating and lying (Debnam, Howard, & Garza, 2014). Good communication was the next quality that was identified and is defined as openness and transparency in the relationship. Several of the girls described an individual portraying this quality as someone who would listen to them and be able to talk with them about their lives. Honesty was the next most frequently cited quality and was mentioned by twenty-six of the girls. A 17 year old girl said, “if you don’t have honesty in a relationship, there is no relationship.” Each girl believed that honesty acted as the foundation of a good, strong relationship (Debnam, Howard, & Garza, 2014).
Respect was the next most frequently cited quality and was mentioned by twenty-two of the girls. Several believed that their partner should be respectful in general, rather than just respectful to them. The girls valued respect for their elders, respect for themselves, and respect for their bodies. Respect was closely related to honesty within the relationship. If their partner was dishonest, they would also view this as a disrespectful act (Debnam, Howard, & Garza, 2014). Self-confidence and individuality were the next two most frequently cited qualities. The least frequently cited qualities included understanding and compromise. The four least frequently cited qualities relate to one another. The girls stated that they should not have to compromise or change for their partner. They were unwilling to change for a partner because they valued retaining their original identities. Only eight of the girls mentioned that they valued compromise. When mentioning compromise, the girls tended to discuss the future of a relationship, such as jobs later in life, work hours, children, and family values (Debnam, Howard, & Garza, 2014).
What can be done to promote the qualities of strong relationships for adolescent girls in the future?
Studies have proven that programs and educational resources that address relationships help to prevent adolescent girls from entering harmful relationships (Debnam, Howard, & Garza, 2014). It is important for adults to show young girls how they should be treated and to make a difference by demonstrating the qualities of healthy relationships in one’s own relationship and acting as a role model.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). Healthy vs. unhealthy relationships. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/chooserespect/understanding_dating_violence/healthy_vs_unhealthy_
Coltrane, S., & Messineo, M. (2000). The perpetuation of subtle prejudice: Race and gender imagery in 1990s television advertising. Sex roles, 42(5-6), 363-389.
Debnam, K. J., Howard, D. E., & Garza, M. A. (2014). 'If you don’t have honesty in a relationship, then
there is no relationship': African American girls’ characterization of healthy dating relationships,
a qualitative study. Journal Of Primary Prevention, 35(6), 397-407. doi:10.1007/s10935-
Written by Makeela Wells
Due to the compounded effects that are associated with race, African Americans have a greater likelihood of experiencing long periods of singlehood and exposure to unhealthy relationships (Chaney & Fairfax, 2013). The hope for this blog post is to provide African American adolescents and young adults with a glimpse of the qualities of a healthy dating relationship from the perspective of young African Americans males.
African American Males’ Perceptions of Healthy Dating Relationships
Limited information exists on African American males’ perceptions of healthy dating relationships. Research is even more limited when attempting to understand the perceptions of young African American males regarding dating relationships. Interviews that were conducted by Howard and colleagues (2015) in the Washington, D.C. area indicated that there were four qualities that were important to young African American males in a healthy dating relationship: trust, communication, general connection/compatibility, and respect. African American males stated that trust was the most important quality in a healthy dating relationship (Howard, John, Gilchrist, & Aiken, 2015). Without trust, there is no relationship or point to dating. Honesty and communication promote trust in dating relationships. Honesty was described as being truthful, not playing games, and being willing to tell each other everything.
In terms of general connection and compatibility, African American males stated that it was important to be with someone who understands them and someone who was smart, independent and career-driven. Other aspects of general connection and compatibility included emotional and physical connections (Howard et al., 2015). African American males made reference to their partners understanding them and being there for them. In terms of physical connection, African American males discussed that a balance must exist between physical attraction and communication. Lastly, African American males asserted that respect was also key to healthy dating relationships. This included respecting a partner’s boundaries and neither partner disrespecting the other. A third sign of respect in a healthy relationship was not engaging in physical or emotional abuse with one’s partner (Howard et al., 2015).
What can be done to promote healthy dating relationships for emerging adults in the future?
Interviews and focus groups with both African American parents and adolescents are essential to gaining better knowledge of adolescent dating among African Americans. This information can aid adolescents and young adults in understanding the role and qualities of healthy dating relationships as they transition into adulthood, where intimate relationships begin to become more permanent. Another way to promote healthy dating relationships among emerging adults is to provide workshops on the benefits and challenges of dating relationships for adolescents and young adults. Opening and expanding the conversation on adolescent dating not only allows adolescents to know and understand the qualities that are associated with a healthy dating relationship, but it also allows them to be valued contributors to the knowledge on adolescent dating.
Additional references: Learn more about African American adolescent dating relationships and healthy dating relationships.
To see if you are in a healthy dating relationship, take the Healthy Relationship Quiz.
Author Unknown. (2013). Dating Basics. Is My Relationship Healthy? Love is Respect. Retrieved from
Chaney, C., & Fairfax, C. N. (2013). A change has come: The Obamas and the culture of black marriage in America. Ethnicities, 13, 20–48. doi: 10.1177/1468796812463546
Howard, D., C. John, B. Gilchrist, I. Royster, & N. Aiken. (2015). Adolescent African American Males’
Characterizations of Healthy Dating Relationships: A Challenge to One-dimensional
stereotypes. Journal of Child & Adolescent behavior, 3(6), 256-261.
Written by Haley Adams
What are the physical issues that result from loneliness?
Loneliness is now considered to be a health risk for a number of reasons, including lonely individuals being more likely to display certain health concerns, such as heart attacks, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Recently, colleagues at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, the University of California at Davis, and the University of Chicago discovered new information regarding loneliness and its effects on the immune system. Ultimately, the researchers found that “social isolations turned up the activity of genes responsible for inflammation and turned down the activity of genes that produce antibodies to fight infection” (Nutt, 2016). As the number of positive social relationships increase for an individual, the physical risks that the individual experiences lower, which results in a healthier lifestyle.
When individuals are socially isolated, their body is on constant alert for threats, which greatly impacts how they respond to others. In fact, being on constant alert could lead those who are lonely to react negatively towards others, thus creating more problems with their ability to create social connections.
The negative effects of loneliness can also be explained from an evolutionary standpoint. Previously, human survival was greatly dependent on social interaction and working together in order to satisfy basic biological needs. Individuals who isolated themselves have a greater risk of succumbing to the elements. The pain that is experienced due to loneliness has been compared to the pain of hunger, meaning that the body is emitting a signal to indicate that something is wrong.
In another study, where the goal was evaluating whether or not loneliness is reflected in the brain structure, the “findings indicate that lonely individuals have deficits at a relatively early stage of processing social cues” (Kanai, p. 1977). Because the connections between brain matter, loneliness and social perceptual abilities are so complex, causation cannot be determined.
What are the psychological effects of loneliness?
One key point to understand is that loneliness is not synonymous with depression. However, the two are related. When someone is unable to find a social setting in which they belong, the feelings and symptoms that are associated with depression may soon follow.
Social media can also impact social interactions in both a positive and a negative way. If the individual is already socially accepted, they simply further their interactions through different social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram. On the other hand, those who do not feel as if they belong see social media as a constant reminder that they do not belong.
What does this mean for me?
Being socially isolated can impact an individual both physically and mentally. The physical risks that are associated with loneliness include heart attacks and various cancers. Those who are lonely tend to experience depression and social anxiety, which makes finding a social setting in which they feel as if they belong more difficult. Although the United States does not yet perceive loneliness as a public health issue, other areas of the world, such as the United Kingdom, have begun working to “raise… awareness of loneliness” and its impact on heath.
Kanai, R., Bahrami, B., Duchaine, B., Janik, A., Banissy, M., & Rees, G. (2012). Brain structure links
loneliness to social perception. Current Biology, 22, 1975–1979. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2012.08.045
Nutt, A.E. (2016, February 1). Loneliness Grows from Individual Ache to Public Health Hazard. The
Washington Post. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
Dr. H. Colleen Sinclair
Social Psychologist, Relationships Researcher,
Ms. Chelsea Ellithorpe
Lab Manager of the Social Relations Collaborative and Blog Editor