Timely new research from an Edge Hill University academic will investigate the effects of social exclusion and will use the findings to tackle loneliness in the future. Senior psychology lecturer Dr Felicity Wolohan is researching how being excluded from a group affects people’s ability to pick up on non-verbal facial cues. This project, funded by the prestigious British Academy, is the first to directly test how socially excluded individuals respond to social signals from others and how they use this information to reintegrate.
Dr Wolohan said: ‘I am delighted to have been awarded funding by the British Academy to conduct this important research. Given the universal isolation, we have all faced during 2020, finding out about the effects of exclusion is vital.
‘What I’m interested in is how people reintegrate after periods of social exclusion and if it alters the way we respond to important non-verbal cues. I also hope we can find out what separates those individuals who successfully bounce back from exclusion from those who are chronically lonely. This understanding could help us develop methods to tackle chronic loneliness that some people suffer from in the future.’
In addition, these findings could provide an insight into the social effects the COVID-19 lockdown, especially for anyone living alone and people who rely on everyday activities for social interaction. It is thought that long term forms of exclusion and loneliness like these may reduce people’s ability to pick up on non-verbal social cues.
‘Ultimately, we all have an inherent need to belong and make connections with other people,’ Dr Wolohan explained. ‘Children need to interact with others to learn everyday social cues and adults are happier and healthier when they regularly interact with other people.’
Dr Wolohan is supported in her research by Dr James Strachan from Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) – the Italian Institute of Technology. They aim to gather data before the end of 2020 and draw conclusions in 2021.
More widely, Dr Wolohan’s research interests focus on social neuroscience and how people naturally use social cues to infer mental states, predict behaviour, detect personality traits and even guide future behaviour towards others. She is also keen to find out how are these social cognitions are affected by other factors such as hormonal changes and loneliness.
This project is funded by the British Academy Leverhulme small grant award. The British Academy is an independent fellowship of world-leading scholars and researchers; a funding body for research, nationally and internationally; and a forum for debate and engagement. To find out more, click here.
If you are interested in studying Psychology at Edge Hill the University offers a variety of courses including BSc (Hons) Psychology, BSc (Hons) Educational Psychology, and BSc (Hons) Psychology and Criminology.