Loneliness and emotion regulation: the mediating role of attitudes towards expressivity

Loneliness is associated with cautious strategies, such as lack of self-disclosure, during social interactions—a tendency that is harmful for relationships. Importantly, there is a gap in the literature about the way lonely individuals communicate their emotions, a critical aspect of establishing and maintaining social connections. To address this, I investigated the link between loneliness and expressive suppression in three studies (N = 646) in which participants completed questionnaires (Study 1), imagined a social interaction (Study 2), and went through an experimental manipulation of loneliness (Study 3). Overall, I found that loneliness leads to more negative and less positive metaperceptions about emotional expressivity, which in turn lead to increased expressive suppression. Considering the negative social consequences of expressive suppression, these findings have important implications and can inform future loneliness interventions.