Date of Conferral







Brad Bell


Social identity theory (SIT) is a robust theory that explains in-group versus out-group behaviors. Two qualities of one's social identity include emotional connection and social connection with others, which someone who is experiencing loneliness tends to lack in their current situation. This dissertation explored whether when one's social identity becomes salient it results in a lower evaluation of one's current state of loneliness. An experiment was conducted in which college student participants, who were 18 years of age or older and currently enrolled in college courses, were randomly assigned to a social identity saliency group (college student) or 1 of 3 control conditions (personal identity group, cognitive control condition, and no prime condition). The sample consisted of 207 participants of which 189 were analyzed for social loneliness and 190 were analyzed for emotional loneliness, after excluding participants who did not meet scoring criteria. To analyze the data a planned contrast procedure was conducted in which the social identity group's mean was compared to the combined means of the 3 control conditions. Results indicated that when social identity is made salient, participants report a lower level of emotional and social loneliness when compared to the other 3 conditions. Loneliness, which is being considered a major public health crisis, is becoming more common in modern society, making finding mechanisms to reduce loneliness important. This research supports the notion that social identification can reduce one's evaluation of loneliness. As an example, from the findings in this research, to reduce loneliness among college students, college programs should focus on the positive attributions of being a college student.