Large numbers of people around the globe have been forced into solitude due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, social distancing is utterly at odds with our drive for social connection, the cornerstone of human evolution.
Suddenly confronted with a lack of social interactions, many of us are now experiencing more loneliness. We are missing that reassuring hug or shoulder pat from another human things we might normally expect in times of adversity. To cope, we try to fill the void with online social activities, such as synchronized Netflix viewings, games and video chat dance parties. But do these help?
When we spend quality time with another person, we experience intrinsic joy. Brain scanning studies show that subcortical brain regions, such as the ventral striatum, which plays an important role in motivation, are activated when receiving monetary and social rewards.
Loneliness can be seen in the brain. SpeedKingz/Shutterstock
When we feel lonely and rejected, brain regions associated with distress and rumination are activated instead. This may be due to evolution driving us to establish and maintain social connections to ensure survival. Lonely people also have a more negative focus and anxiously scrutinize peoples intentions. Sometimes this can become so strong that it makes us feel even more lonely creating a vicious cycle.
Not everyone relishes social connection to the same extent though. People with a more extrovert personality type seek more social activities, have access to larger social networks, and report lower perceived loneliness. People who score highly on neuroticism tend to report more perceived social isolation.
Loneliness has for some time been recognized as a significant threat to physical and mental health and has been found to be predictive of mortality.
So how can you best cope with loneliness and isolation? Analysis has suggested that the most successful interventions find ways to address the distorted thinking that loneliness creates. So if you are feeling lonely, try identifying automatic negative thoughts such as assuming people dont want to hear from you and reframing them as hypotheses rather than facts.
Another recent review of literature found that targeting coping strategies can also be beneficial. It discovered that approaches such as joining a support group to remove feelings of loneliness work particularly well. Emotion-based coping strategies, such as lowering expectations about relationships, were not as effective.
Social media is often vilified in public discourse. But many people who are self-isolating now rely on online social tools. An important aspect missing in instant messaging and social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, however, is the nonverbal cue such as a smile, gesture or glance. These allow us to gauge the tone and context of a social encounter. When this information is missing, we perceive fewer friendly cues from others.
So while online tools can be helpful during periods of isolation, embodiment and social presence are nevertheless missing. But there are ways to boost the rewards of online communication. One study used augmented reality to enable two people to interact with each others video chat images and found that they reported a higher sense of social presence and a more engaging experience. Similarly, participating in shared activities benefits the formation of close relationships with others. So whether it is a virtual pub quiz or a dance party, this may be particularly valuable during the lockdown.
Robots designed to engage us on a social level could also help isolated people feel less lonely, as they carry the benefit of embodiment. In a randomized control trial with Paro, a cuddly baby seal robot, residents in a care home who interacted with it reported reduced feelings of loneliness.
Research from our own laboratory seeks to identify how robotic features or behaviors influence our ability to feel socially connected to these machines. For example, a new study highlights that people conversationally engage with a humanoid robot to a similar extent as another person, and more so than with a voice assistant like Alexa or Siri.
New advances in mobile brain imaging technologies, along with the increasing social sophistication of some robots, provide opportunities for examining how people establish and maintain social connections with robots in real-time.
While the rise of social robots appears futuristic, they are already moving out of factories and into our homes, supermarkets, and hospitals. They even have new social roles in the coronavirus crisis for example as supermarket assistants, reminding shoppers of new health and safety rules.
Until we all have a sophisticated social robot to keep us company, perhaps the best remedy is to keep in touch with our loved ones online, especially through shared activities. And lets focus on the fact that close human contact will soon be safe again.
This article is republished from The ConversationbyEmily S. Cross, Professor of Social Robotics, Macquarie University and Anna Henschel, PhD Candidate in Psychology & Neuroscience, University of Glasgowunder a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
Read next: FANG's coronavirus bounce added $251 billion to their market values
Read our daily coverage on how the tech industry is responding to the coronavirus and subscribe to our weekly newsletter Coronavirus in Context.
For tips and tricks on working remotely, check out our Growth Quarters articles here or follow us on Twitter.
- Students harness the power of technology to address larger issues - Waterbury Republican American - January 3rd, 2021
- Banning Government Use of Face Recognition Technology: 2020 Year in Review - EFF - January 3rd, 2021
- As ice fishing gets easier because of technology, can fish withstand the onslaught? - Duluth News Tribune - January 3rd, 2021
- Technology may have helped us survive Covid-19, but at what cost? - CTech - January 3rd, 2021
- The Effects of Technology on Teens - Cat's Eye View - January 3rd, 2021
- 'Peak hype': why the driverless car revolution has stalled - The Guardian - January 3rd, 2021
- Five Microsoft technologies to watch in 2021 - ZDNet - January 3rd, 2021
- Birmingham CEO named in "100 Most Powerful Women In Technology 2020" - Bham Now - January 3rd, 2021
- Muslims and technology - DAWN.com - January 3rd, 2021
- The biggest technology failures of 2020 - MIT Technology Review - January 3rd, 2021
- Technology trends to thrive in the new normal - BusinessLine - January 3rd, 2021
- Harvard professor believes bizarre asteroid from 2017 was alien technology - SlashGear - January 3rd, 2021
- Irving-based Exela Technologies hires firm to help it explore strategic alternatives - The Dallas Morning News - January 3rd, 2021
- Century Technology Group leans on tech acquisitions to drive growth - MiBiz: West Michigan Business News - January 3rd, 2021
- Global Anti-Counterfeit Packaging Technologies Market (2020 to 2028) - Featuring 3M, Avery Dennison and Digimarc Among Others - ResearchAndMarkets.com... - January 3rd, 2021
- 5G Technologies and the Driverless Car - GlobeNewswire - January 3rd, 2021
- Inside the radical community near Kent without modern technology and where nobody is paid - Kent Live - January 3rd, 2021
- Technology In 2020: Big Tech Goes To Washington; Online Shopping Gets A Pandemic Boost - Here And Now - December 29th, 2020
- Quantum computers' power will remake competition in industries from technology to finance - MarketWatch - December 29th, 2020
- Alarm Bells Ringing On Education Technology - The Chattanoogan - December 29th, 2020
- Technology and Sustainability to Drive Recovery in the UK Facility Management Market - GlobeNewswire - December 29th, 2020
- Boomer's Blueprint: The technology physical - Accounting Today - December 29th, 2020
- How technology will help to shape the future of work in 2021 and beyond - The Star Online - December 29th, 2020
- Technology was a bright spot: Year in Review 2020 - Idaho Business Review - December 29th, 2020
- Tech platforms vowed to address racial equity: how have they fared? - The Guardian - December 29th, 2020
- Global Tissue Ablation Technologies Industry - GlobeNewswire - December 29th, 2020
- This technology could start saving lives tomorrow, but the Nationals won't let it happen - Sydney Morning Herald - December 29th, 2020
- Tackling unforeseen situations along with technological advancements - The Tribune India - December 29th, 2020
- Rebekah Jones named Forbes Technology Person of The Year - Florida Politics - December 29th, 2020
- Vaccines are the latest battleground for doctors on social media - MIT Technology Review - December 29th, 2020
- Top 10 Technology Analysts of 2020 - eWeek - December 29th, 2020
- 5 Ways To Build Trust In Cloud Technology We Saw In 2020 - Forbes - December 29th, 2020
- BRINK Explores the Technology Sector in 2020 BRINK News and Insights on Global Risk - BRINK - December 29th, 2020
- 10 Information Technology Stocks Showing Unusual Options Activity In Today's Session - Benzinga - December 29th, 2020
- Differentiated Lidar Technology Puts Luminar in the Spotlight - InvestorPlace - December 29th, 2020
- The global Green Technology and Sustainability market size to grow from USD 11.2 billion in 2020 to USD 36.6 billion by 2025, at a Compound Annual... - December 21st, 2020
- Technology that detects whisky's age is 'world first' - The Spirits Business - December 21st, 2020
- LocatorX Launches Lends-A-Hand Program and Women in Technology Group to Reflect Company Values and Mission - GlobeNewswire - December 21st, 2020
- Shenpu Technology (KIEYYUEL) Made a Stunning Appearance at the International Epidemic Prevention Exhibition - Business Wire - December 21st, 2020
- 2021 Supply Chain Technology Trends To Watch - Forbes - December 21st, 2020
- Understanding the Role of Technology in Today's Foodservice Equipment Marketplace - Total Food Service - December 21st, 2020
- Technology that went its own way in 2020 - Gearbrain - December 21st, 2020
- 2021 outlook: Here are the technologies, questions that'll matter - ZDNet - December 21st, 2020
- Group14 Technologies Powering Next Generation Of Batteries With $17M Series B - Crunchbase News - December 21st, 2020
- How the pandemic inspired creative uses of technology in 2020 - The Verge - December 21st, 2020
- Talking to the LTA innovator hoping to bring new technology to tennis - Tennis365 - December 21st, 2020
- Automotive Air Purifier Market Research Report by Technology, by Type, by Vehicle Class, by Distribution - Global Forecast to 2025 - Cumulative Impact... - December 21st, 2020
- VOTIS Subdermal Imaging Technologies And ii Ventures Announce Plans To Develop Preventative Medicine Devices To Screen For Peripheral Artery Disease... - December 21st, 2020
- 12 Emerging Technologies To Watch In 2021 - Yahoo Finance - December 21st, 2020
- These stocks are the best way to play the technology transformation mega trend, Jefferies says - CNBC - December 21st, 2020
- EPA awards grant to Marshall student team for technology project - Huntington Herald Dispatch - December 21st, 2020
- Wind generation sets another record in banner year for the technology - Current News - December 21st, 2020
- How the Massachusetts police reform bill would actually affect law enforcement use of facial recognition technology - Boston.com - December 21st, 2020
- Greenland Technologies Ramps to Over 800 Units in Monthly Sales of New Integrated Drive Train System for Electric Forklift Trucks - PRNewswire - December 21st, 2020
- Q BioMed Technology Partner Mannin Research Inc. Announced as Member of Canadian National COVID-19 Consortium - BioSpace - December 21st, 2020
- Technology will lead Iowa's business recovery - The Gazette - December 21st, 2020
- Polestar 2 greets winter solstice with advanced lighting technology - Automotive World - December 21st, 2020
- Turnover, Tiny Homes and New Technology: 2021 Predictions from 14 Home Care Executives - Home Health Care News - December 21st, 2020
- Defence technology in 2021: our predictions - Army Technology - December 21st, 2020
- Peijia Medical and HighLife Enter Into License and Technology Transfer Agreement for Transeptal Mitral Valve Replacement in Greater China - BioSpace - December 21st, 2020
- Asian security rests on forging closer U.S.-Japan science and technology cooperation - The Japan Times - December 21st, 2020
- Times Have Changed: Real Estate Event Highlights Reliance on Virtual Technology in a Shifting Environment - RisMedia.com - December 21st, 2020
- New technology will aid search and rescue around Caithness coast - JohnOGroat Journal - December 21st, 2020
- Peter Rhodes on naming a toadstool, harmless technology and why the truth is sometimes not obvious - expressandstar.com - December 21st, 2020
- Leading Technology Advisory Firm ISG Recognizes Unisys as Global Leader in Public Cloud Solutions and Services - PRNewswire - December 21st, 2020
- Leveraging new technology to source and secure carrier capacity - FreightWaves - December 19th, 2020
- Education Technology in 2020: 8 Takeaways From a Chaotic Year - Education Week - December 19th, 2020
- From caring for wildlife to using technology for water distribution, here are the top Social Stories for the w - YourStory - December 19th, 2020
- 12 Emerging Technologies To Watch In 2021 - Benzinga - December 19th, 2020
- The MOCVD Market 2020-2024- Featuring Advanced Micro-Fabrication Equipment Inc., Agnitron Technology Inc., AIXTRON AG, Among Others to Contribute to... - December 19th, 2020
- Introducing SP8CEVC: The World's First Space Technology and Human Longevity Focused Rolling Fund in Partnership with AngelList - PRNewswire - December 19th, 2020
- BioSig's Division NeuroClear Technologies Signs a Research Agreement with the University of Minnesota - GlobeNewswire - December 19th, 2020
- Waste Is A Design Flaw: Rubicon Taps Technology To Help Businesses And Governments Save Money And Go Zero-Waste - Forbes - December 19th, 2020
- Global STING Pathway Targeting Therapeutics and Technologies Market, 2020-2030 - Promising Leads are Anticipated to be Launched Over the Coming Decade... - December 19th, 2020
- Meet the 10 disruptive technologies vying to win UC's Startup Innovation Challenge - University of California - December 19th, 2020
- Webinar recording with Fervo Energy on key technologies to accelerate geothermal energy development - ThinkGeoEnergy - December 19th, 2020
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology disciplining professor with ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein - MassLive.com - December 19th, 2020
- Using Automation Technology to Improve Facility Safety - EHS Today - December 19th, 2020
- Parsables Connected Worker Technology: The Human-Centric Manufacturing Revolution - Forbes - December 19th, 2020
- Growing Champions: Building digital success with women in technology in Malaysia - The Edge Markets MY - December 19th, 2020