Promoting social connectedness by means of a simple bonding art task

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The need for social connection is a fundamental human motive, and it is increasingly clear that feeling socially connected confers mental and physical health benefits. However, vulnerable populations such as refugees, the elderly or individuals with disabilities often feel socially isolated and lonely. The aim of this study was to explore ways to increase social connection towards others by means of a simple bonding task which could be implemented in settings such as asylum seeker centres. This paper also examines the role that perceptions of similarity and enjoyment play in this relationship. Pairs of unacquainted participants were asked to perform a collaborative art task without being able to look at each other’s paper. Participants in the bonding condition had an additional requirement: to explore commonalities with their art partner and reflect those shared aspects on paper. Compared with a closely matched (non-bonding) control task, dedicating a few minutes to explore shared interests and ideas increased feelings of social connection. These results suggest that this easily implemented technique may help to foster connectedness between individuals and thus mitigate social isolation. This has implications for practitioners working with socially disconnected individuals which could apply the findings to exploit the potential of shared activities in promoting connectedness and ultimately well-being.
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen