Social Distancing

Kevin Lewis

March 28, 2020

Are we happier with others? An investigation of the links between spending time with others and subjective well-being
Nathan Hudson, Richard Lucas & Brent Donnellan
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Previous research suggests that having close relationships is a fundamental human need that, when fulfilled, is positively associated with subjective well-being. Recently, however, scholars have argued that actually interacting with one's closest partners may be psychologically taxing (e.g., because of pressures to provide support, care, and empathy). In the present research, we tested (a) how experiential affect varied as a function of which persons were currently present (e.g., romantic partners, friends, and colleagues), as well as (b) how global well-being varied as a function of total daily time invested in these individuals. Replicating previous research, participants reported the highest levels of experiential well-being in the company of their friends, followed by their romantic partners, and then children. Statistically controlling for the activities performed with others, however, suggested that individuals did not necessarily prefer the mere company of their friends per se: people reported similar levels of well-being while in the presence of friends, partners, and children when adjusting estimates for activities. In contrast to the experiential findings, global well-being varied only as a function of total time spent with one's romantic partner. Our findings further support the claim that experiential and global well-being are often separable constructs that may show different patterns of association with relationship experiences (e.g., well-being may operate differently on within- vs. between-persons levels).

Can't Buy Me Love (or Friendship): Social Consequences of Financially Contingent Self-Worth
Deborah Ward et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


Although people may think that money improves one's relationships, research suggests otherwise. Focusing on money is associated with spending less time maintaining relationships and less desire to rely on others for help. But why does focusing on money relate to worse social outcomes? We propose that when people base their self-esteem on financial success - that is, have financially contingent self-worth - they are likely to feel pressured to pursue success in this domain, which may come at the expense of spending time with close others. Consistent with this idea, results of four cross-sectional studies (N = 2,439) and a daily diary study (N = 246) revealed that basing one's self-worth on financial success is associated with greater feelings of loneliness and social disconnection, and this may be related to experiencing less autonomy and spending less time with family and friends.

Vulnerable robots positively shape human conversational dynamics in a human-robot team
Margaret Traeger et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 24 March 2020, Pages 6370-6375


Social robots are becoming increasingly influential in shaping the behavior of humans with whom they interact. Here, we examine how the actions of a social robot can influence human-to-human communication, and not just robot-human communication, using groups of three humans and one robot playing 30 rounds of a collaborative game (n = 51 groups). We find that people in groups with a robot making vulnerable statements converse substantially more with each other, distribute their conversation somewhat more equally, and perceive their groups more positively compared to control groups with a robot that either makes neutral statements or no statements at the end of each round. Shifts in robot speech have the power not only to affect how people interact with robots, but also how people interact with each other, offering the prospect for modifying social interactions via the introduction of artificial agents into hybrid systems of humans and machines.

A body-to-mind perspective on social connection: Physical warmth potentiates brain activity to close others and subsequent feelings of social connection
Tristen Inagaki & Lauren Ross
Emotion, forthcoming


Social connection may stem from afferent pathways that bring bodily information to the brain and mind. In support of this perspective, research from animals and humans shows that physical warmth causally affects experiences of social connection. However, whether physical warmth affects feelings of social connection and the brain's response to close others remains unknown. In the current study, 42 participants completed an fMRI scan as they viewed images of a close other and strangers while holding warm, cold, and room-temperature objects. Following the scan, participants reported on their feelings of social connection and pleasure in response to the three temperature conditions. Results revealed a specific effect of physical warmth on brain activity to close others as compared with cooler temperatures (both cold and room temperature) and strangers (e.g., in the ventral striatum, middle-insula, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, pregenual cingulate cortex). Cooler temperatures had no effect on brain activity to close others (vs. strangers). Further, physical warmth increased feelings of social connection, even when adjusting for feelings of pleasure, but not vice versa, suggesting physical warmth may have specific effects on feelings of social connection. Results add to an emerging literature on the contribution of physical warmth to social connection and furthers understanding of why and how connecting with others is a basic need for humans.

Does acting extraverted evoke positive social feedback?
Mariya Davydenko et al.
Personality and Individual Differences, forthcoming


Personality traits describe average tendencies, yet momentary behaviors in trait domains vary widely. Notably, both dispositional introverts and extraverts experience greater positive affect when behaving in extraverted ways. We test a potential explanation: extraverted behavior may evoke more positive social feedback from others. In Study 1, participants who were randomly assigned to interact with confederates who acted extraverted (vs. introverted) displayed more positive verbal and nonverbal social behaviors during interactions. Behaviors were rated by the participant, confederate, and an observer (via video). Study 2 reversed roles; neutral confederates who interacted with participants who were randomly assigned to act extraverted (vs. introverted) displayed more positive social behaviors. This research extends previous findings by examining how enacted extraversion influences interaction dynamics.

Life lacks meaning without acceptance: Ostracism triggers suicidal thoughts
Zhansheng Chen et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Eleven studies (N = 2,254; 2 preregistered) examined whether ostracism would trigger suicidal thoughts and whether perceived meaning in life would account for this effect. The feeling of ostracism was induced via recalling a past experience (Studies 1a, 1c, 2c, and 3b), imagining a future experience (Studies 1d, 1e, and 2b), engaging in an online real-time interaction (Studies 1b and 2d), or receiving bogus personality feedback (Study 3a). Across all 11 studies, ostracism increased suicidal thoughts. Study 1a found that ostracism increased implicit associations of "death" and "me" relative to "life" and "me" on the Implicit Association Test of Suicide (Nock et al., 2010). In Study 1b, ostracized participants showed more suicidal thoughts in imagined stressful situations than did included participants. Studies 1c, 1d, and 1e further showed that ostracism increased explicit suicidal thoughts compared with both inclusion and neutral experiences. Furthermore, we found that perceived meaning in life accounted for ostracism's effect on suicidal thoughts (Studies 2a and 2b), even after controlling for depressive affect (Study 2c). In Study 2d, a preregistered study, we directly compared the contributions of perceived meaning in life and the 4 basic needs and mood proposed in William's (2007, 2009) ostracism framework, and we found that perceived meaning in life had a distinct mediating role in the ostracism-suicidal thinking link. Finally, Studies 3a and 3b found that self-affirmation exercises reduced suicidal thoughts following ostracism. Life lacks meaning without social connection, thereby activating suicidal thoughts.

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