- This may be a boring post for some of you but I thought it was amazing in its implications
Recently a new research paper came out that was absolutely fascinating to me. Psychologists at the University of Chicago did a study on people who were labeled “lonely” based on a specific set of scientific measurements/criteria. The study determined that people who are lonely have brains that operate differently from those not considered to be lonely. In fact, the electrical impulses of the brains of lonely people were faster and more severe when shown negative social cues. Researchers interpret this to mean that lonely people are guarding, both consciously and subconsciously, against social threats. This encourages the brain to be hypervigilant against perceived threatening social situations as well as go into a type of self-preservation mode. This can then often lead to social situations in which the lonely person interprets the actions of others incorrectly.
So what does this mean, I wondered, for persons in marriages that are breaking down as well as individuals with autism or other social anxiety issues?
I have no idea and the study didn’t examine these issues but I wish they would.
In the case of the married couple usually by the time you reach the divorce stage both parties are lonely because things are not going well and they are no longer each other’s best friend. In fact, the therapist we are going to said that we no longer have a strong friendship. (That is a statement for another post at another time) So does this mean that as our relationship deteriorated and as our friendship with one another decreased that we begin to interpret that actions of each other incorrectly leading to further disintegration? And does it mean that in exchanges with one another we are primed to guard against our spouse once again leading to a greater marital discord and demise?
Same with individuals on the autism spectrum. As they already have issues reading social cues and are often left out and lonely does this mean that their ability to read social cues diminishes even further the lonelier they become? Could this explain why children on the spectrum tend to become more rigid and less outgoing as they age?
If all this does indeed apply to both marital and spectrum issues then one of the questions that needs to be asked is at what point in the relationship does this inaccurate interpretation begin? Is it after the first disappointment or after the 131st? And what are the preliminary warning signs that signal to a person that their loneliness is having detrimental effects on themselves and those around them?
Yep, I’m a science geek and love this kind of stuff
For more information on this interesting study visit the radio program Here & Now