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Title: Loneliness : an analysis of beliefs, experience and communication
Author: Garrett, Mario Dominic
ISNI:       0000 0001 3491 4917
Awarding Body: University of Bath
Current Institution: University of Bath
Date of Award: 1988
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For many people the experience of loneliness is endured and coped with on a private level. It is rare that individuals have the chance to talk about and share what they feel when lonely. This study is concerned with exposing this private experience and to understand how and why people report loneliness. This thesis is organised around five chapters. The introductory chapter outlines a critique of the socio-cognitive approach to the study of loneliness. Although this approach has dominated the area, it is argued that: a) it minimises the importance of how the experience feels in favour of how people think about loneliness, and b) implicitly assumes that cognitive correlates of loneliness are sufficient in explaining and predicting loneliness. The proposed alternative model is based on two basic principles which are developed from anomalies within the socio-cognitive approach and from current psychological studies in the area of affect. These two principles are: a) that related thought does not necessarily cause loneliness, and b) that the permanence of loneliness could be better explained by being aware of the wider social involvement of relationships. The three empirical chapters reported in this study test and elaborate these basic principles of affect. In the first empirical study, participants were asked to generate a series of twenty questions to test whether an individual was lonely or not. The results showed that others evaluate loneliness predominantly by how the experience is reported to feel. As a consequence, it was argued that loneliness acquires meaning not so much from related activities or thoughts but from its relation to other emotions, especially depression. This phenomenon was termed as an 'affective tautology' and refers to the semantics of loneliness being acquired by its relationship with other emotions. The empirical results in chapter four developed this finding, by selecting factors from a longitudinal study which correlated highly with loneliness and applying LISREL IV analysis to test for causal paths. It was found that although loneliness is associated with what people report thinking, these indices are not exclusive causes of the experience. Therefore thoughts which are reported with loneliness are not complete causal explanations of loneliness. The argument developed is that since any reporting of loneliness is made within a social setting (however small the setting is) the experience is, nevertheless, 'translated'. It is not surprising therefore that several attempts at predicting the duration of loneliness, on the basis of such, translations, have on the whole, generated inconclusive results. The main objective of the fourth study was to investigate what this social setting is for loneliness. The results from interviewing recently divorced and widowed women, and retired Roman Catholic priests showed that intense and consistent loneliness was not only a reflection of a greater disparity between past intentions and current relationship state, but that there is also a subtle implication of how the individual expressed his or her relationship within a social setting. Loneliness is therefore seen as a succinct evaluation across one's personal history which transfers over to the present. The argument which is developed in the concluding chapter is that this 'transference' of the affect of loneliness maintains the experience as a characteristic trait. The contention is that although the reporting of loneliness involves language and social consensus, the experience is an individual expression. How the individual reacts to loneliness is related to wider aspects of the individual's social and personal life particularly to their intent, conduct and type of loss of their personal relationships. The theme of this study is that it is the feeling of loneliness which should be the primary concern because it is a succinct expression of a whole history of events.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Psychology