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Journal Article

Positive attitudes and negative expectations in lonely individuals


Bellucci,  G
Department of Computational Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Bellucci, G. (2020). Positive attitudes and negative expectations in lonely individuals. Scientific Reports, 10(1): 18595, pp. 1-9. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-75712-3.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-51A8-0
Loneliness is a central predictor of depression and major factor of all-cause mortality. Loneliness is supposed to be a warning signal prompting individuals to seek out social connections. However, lonely individuals seem to be less likely to engage in prosocial activities and are overall more socially withdrawn. Hence, it is yet unclear whether and how loneliness affects an individual's social motivations. Prosocial attitudes and expectations about social interactions of lonely individuals might shed light on whether lonely individuals are more prone to connect or withdraw from social activities. Here, results from a large dataset (~ 15,500 individuals) provide evidence for both. In particular, lonely individuals indicate stronger altruistic attitudes, suggesting a positive tendency to build and maintain social bonds. However, they also report more negative expectations about others, as they believe their social partners be less fair and trustworthy, suggesting less favorable evaluations of social interactions. By highlighting an important link between loneliness, prosocial attitudes and social expectations, this work stresses the role of loneliness in social motivations, points to potential consequences for social behaviors, and proposes a mechanism for the paradoxical effects of loneliness on an individual's social attitudes and expectations, with important implications for future basic and clinical research, as well as education, economics and public policy.