The Psychology of Exile

The Huffington Post:

When I was in middle school, one of the assigned readings was a story called “The Man Without a Country.” It was written by Edward Everett Hale in 1863, and told the story of a young American army lieutenant, Philip Nolan, who is tried for treason along with Aaron Burr. During the trial, he angrily denounces his country, declaring his wish to never hear mention of the United States again, and the shocked judge complies: He sentences Nolan to spend the rest of his life in exile, aboard U.S. warships, where he will hear no word of life in America.

The findings were clear. Those facing a life of loneliness were more apt to believe in supernatural agents of all kinds. As the authors described in the journal Psychological Science, loneliness doesn’t turn atheists into fundamentalists, but it does appear to nudge people toward believing in various incarnations, some darker than others. Even bad company is company, it appears, and better than being alone. Not surprisingly, the psychologists found the same pattern with pets. That is, people who were made to feel lonely were more likely to humanize their dogs and cats and hamsters than were people who feel well loved.

Read the whole story: The Huffington Post

Wray Herbert is an author and award-winning journalist who writes two popular blogs for APS, We’re Only Human and Full Frontal Psychology. Follow Wray on Twitter @wrayherbert.

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