Loneliness Increases the Belief in God

According to Nicholas Epley from the University of Chicago:

"Biological reproduction is not a very efficient way to alleviate one's loneliness, but you can make up people when you're motivated to do so," said Nicholas Epley, Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business. "When people lack a sense of connection with other people, they are more likely to see their pets, gadgets or gods as human-like."

In his experiments he showed that the lonelier a person was the more likely they were to believe in supernatural entities such as God, angels, etc. They were also more likely to attribute human characteristics to their pets, such as thoughfulness or compassion. This effect seems to be specific to feelings of loneliness, not just any negative state. For example fear did not produce similar patterns of results.

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So what's this all about?!

Loneliness is both painful to experience and potentially deadly. "It's actually a greater risk for morbidity or mortality than cigarette smoking is. Being lonely is a bad thing for you," he said.

But anthropomorphizing pets or God may actually confer many of the same psychological and physical benefits that come from connections with other people. The same benefits may not apply to gadgets, which were a component of Epley's studies.

"Non-human connections can be very powerful," Epley said. "A brain's not so sensitive to whether it's a person or not. If it's something that has a lot of traits associated with what it means to be a human, then all the better for us, it seems."

The study also provides insight into the flip side of anthropomorphism: dehumanization. People who enjoy a strong sense of social connection are less likely to perceive humanlike mental states in people who seem different from them. Classic examples occur during times of war, during which a strong sense of nationalism or group identity tend to emerge.

"It may be that strong in-group identity is one of the things that facilitates dehumanizing the opposing side," Epley said.

-Via EurekAlert-

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Cool! I thought I was the ONLY ONE that felt this way! Now I know I am NOT ALONE! Oh. Wait. I guess I AM alone! I am just all alone here typing on this keyboard. Alone. Alone. So Alone.

Ha. Just kidding! No actual lonley people were harmed in the making of this post. ps: Great Poster!

Well pointed out, It increases belief in God. Since i have none it remains the same.

By sdf asdgf (not verified) on 18 Jan 2008 #permalink

It is interesting that you spin this article towards the religious slant.

I've seen this same news item spun in the pet angle, the "poor deluded lonely" people angle, and the "new atheism" angle (i.e. God is invented by lonely people).

It is interesting how particular personal bias creeps in through editorship - although it is not news that the news is biased. The blogosphere just allows multiple conflicting biases to spring up all over the globe, I guess.

By Charles Krause (not verified) on 20 Jan 2008 #permalink

by the looks of these comments, lonely people can get pretty nasty and angry at god and little dogs, too.

but i just love loneliness...what should I do?

By blaqdiamond84 (not verified) on 29 Sep 2010 #permalink

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a post graduate psychological student too.I think and I'm feel the best time to "talking and sharing" with god is in a lone time.

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I AM ALONE AND I LIKE YOU LONELINESS