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Opening Arguments

You're bringing me down, man

Today's "Well, duh!" research:

A new study suggests that lonely people attract fellow "lonelies" and influence others to feel lonely, too.

"Loneliness can spread from person to person to person -- up to three degrees of separation," said James H. Fowler, co-author of the study published in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego.

What this means is that if I don't know anything about you, but I know your friend's friend is lonely, then I can do better than chance at predicting whether or not you will be lonely," he said.

Indeed, the study suggests that not only is loneliness contagious, but lonely people tend to isolate themselves in small groups that somehow compound or increase those feelings of solitude.

Do you suppose the opposite could possibly also be true, that gregariousness is catching, that not only do happy people make other people happy but also tend to segregate themselves into groups of happy people? We don't have the research on that yet, so better not say it too confidently.


Wed, 12/02/2009 - 12:57pm

All my old girlfriends have hanged themselves. Is that a bad sign?
Personally, I think it's great. Is that a worse sign?

Lewis Allen
Wed, 12/02/2009 - 7:28pm

Leo wonders if gregariousness may also be catching. Well, I'm not sure if it's the same thing as gretariousness, but another study about one year ago in the British Medical Journal posited that happiness is indeed contagious. I guess it only makes sense that you tend to soak up the moods of those around you. Unless, of course, you're a true contrarian, in which case you'd be well-served to befriend the miserable.

Wed, 12/02/2009 - 10:25pm

Who needs research on a subject that that Roy Orbison covered adequately for the cost of a 45 RPM record in the early '60s.