Lonely people's brains work differently than the brains of non-lonely people
Historically, most of the evidence and data surrounding loneliness comes from behavioral observation. For instance, it has been proven that lonely people spend more time looking at signals of social threat.
Recent research by Stephanie and John Cacioppo -- a husband-and-wife research team at the University of Chicago -- provides the first glimpse of evidence that lonely people's brains actually work differently than the brains of non-lonely people.
Their findings revealed information that explains the evolutionary reasoning behind loneliness. Feeling lonely triggers a myriad of brain-related changes that put people into a socially nervous mode and state of mind.
The Cacioppos surveyed 38 "very lonely" people and 32 people who claimed that they didn't feel lonely (with loneliness defined as the subjective feeling of isolation). They placed 128 sensors on each participant's head, which recorded each participant's brain waves through electro-encephalography (EEG), a technology that measures brain activity changes over short time period.
After securing the apparatus, participants were asked to look at various words on computer screens and then indicate which colors they were written in: This is also known as the Stroop Effect.
The experiment projected both negative and positive words, and the researchers studied the participants' brain waves to how the brains responded to words that were negative in nature.
Lonely people's brains responded to the negative words more quickly than the brains of the non-lonely people. These discrepancies open up huge doors for further exploration about the psychology behind loneliness.
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