Abstract for: Conceptualizing Loneliness

Loneliness is a common human emotion, both complex and unique subjective experience to each individual. As such, it’s been defined in different ways including: perceived deprivation of social contact, the lack of people willing to share social and emotional experiences, a state where an individual has the potential to interact but does not, and the discrepancy between the actual and desired interaction with others. This paper tests a predominant theory of loneliness, Evolutionary Theory of Loneliness (ETL), using a feedback perspective for individuals. This study’s goal is to understand whether Cacioppo’s ETL, when mathematically defined as a system dynamics model, could accurately simulate and model loneliness across time.  This study will add to the field of loneliness research by using a systems-focused method to develop a core model of loneliness. As is true in many social theories, many loneliness theories discuss certain dynamic cycles, yet few research studies use methods that account for these types of causal nonlinear relationships across time. Therefore, this study will utilize system dynamics to increase our theoretical understanding of the complex issues of loneliness by modeling its seminal theories through a core loneliness model.