Increasing social engagement among lonely individuals: The role of acceptance cues and promotion motivations

Gale M. Lucas, Megan L. Knowles, Wendi L. Gardner, Daniel C. Molden, Valerie E. Jefferis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations

Abstract

Lonely individuals typically fear negative evaluation and engage in overly cautious social behaviors that perpetuate their social isolation. Recent research has found analogous security-oriented (i.e., prevention-focused) responses following experiences highlighting concerns with social loss but differing growth-oriented (i.e., promotion-focused) responses, such as attempts at social engagement, following experiences highlighting concerns with social gain. The present studies thus investigated whether fostering a promotion focus among lonely individuals through subtle primes of acceptance could reduce their self-protective social avoidance. This hypothesis was supported across four studies in which the links between primed acceptance and promotion-focused motivations were first established, and the impact of such primes on lonely individuals' social thoughts, intentions, and behaviors were then tested. Implications of observed differences between effects of acceptance primes on lonely versus nonlonely individuals are discussed in terms of deficits versus satiation with feelings of belonging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1346-1359
Number of pages14
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Volume36
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 5 2010

Keywords

  • acceptance
  • belonging
  • loneliness
  • regulatory focus
  • social exclusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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