Front. Integr. Neurosci., 25 July 2012 | doi: 10.3389/fnint.2012.00051

Decoding the invisible forces of social connections

Stephanie Cacioppo1* and John T. Cacioppo2
  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
  • 2Department of Psychology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA

By its 20th anniversary, social neuroscience has witnessed an incredible rise in the number of studies demonstrating the effects of perceived social isolation (e.g., loneliness, ostracism), and inversely, the beneficial effects of social bonding (e.g., love, desire, attachment) on social perception, cognition, and behavior and on mental and physical health. The current review underscores the importance of two factors in this literature: (1) where an individual falls along the continuum of isolation/bonding from feelings of rejection and neglect to feelings of strong, stable, trusted social bonds, and (2) whether gauging an individual's general feeling of social isolation/bonding or the specific feeling of isolation/bonding toward the person with whom the individual is interacting. Evidence shows that these factors are related to brain and cognition, including embodied social cognition—a system integrating past self-related actions from which simulation mechanisms can be used to access other people's minds and anticipate their actions. The neurophysiological mechanisms underlying sensorimotor mapping between interacting individuals offers an empirical opportunity to investigate the interpersonal forces that operate on individuals at a distance. This multilevel integrative approach provides a valuable tool for investigating the brain networks responsible for understanding acute and chronic social disorders.

Keywords: social neuroscience, loneliness, bonding, mimicry, synchrony, embodied cognition, interdependence, social isolation

Citation: Cacioppo S and Cacioppo JT (2012) Decoding the invisible forces of social connections. Front. Integr. Neurosci. 6:51. doi: 10.3389/fnint.2012.00051

Received: 01 May 2012; Paper pending published: 17 May 2012;
Accepted: 04 July 2012; Published online: 25 July 2012.

Edited by:

Florin Dolcos, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Reviewed by:

Ullrich Wagner, Charité - University Medicine Berlin, Germany
Elaine Hatfield, University of Hawaii, USA
Todd Heatherton, Dartmouth College, USA

Copyright © 2012 Cacioppo and Cacioppo. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Stephanie Cacioppo, Department of Psychology, University of Geneva, Pont d'Arve, 40, Geneva, 1205, Switzerland. e-mail:

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