Date of Conferral
Brad E. Bell
There are negative correlations between prosocial behaviors and loneliness and negative correlations between thinking about prosocial behaviors and loneliness. The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of thinking about engaging in charitable behaviors on immediate feelings of social and emotional loneliness, as measured by the Social and Emotional Loneliness Scale (SELSA). To compare influences of thinking about charitable behaviors and not thinking about charitable behaviors, an experimental design was used. The theoretical framework was a mediational model in which thinking about engaging in a specific charitable behavior leads to perceived ability to participate in positive social interaction, which leads to increased sense of belongingness, which leads to decreased loneliness. This was based on the spreading activation theory and Peplau and Perlman’s social psychological theory of loneliness. A sample of 171 adults age 18 or older living in the United States completed an online questionnaire consisting of 1 of 3 randomly assigned writing prompt conditions: charitable thoughts writing prompt, control writing prompt, and no writing prompt. Data were analyzed through planned contrasts within a one-way ANOVA. Planned contrasts revealed no significant difference in social or emotional loneliness scores between participants in the experimental group and participants in either control group. Thinking about engaging in charitable behaviors does not lead to immediate reduction in loneliness, opening new questions for researchers to investigate what does lead to immediate reduction in loneliness. Nonsignificant findings help health professionals make informed decisions about how to help clients. They need scientific evidence to distinguish between what does and does not work.