Weinstein & Nguyen, 2020.

Motivation and preference in isolation: a test of their different influences on responses to self-isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak.

This multi-wave study examined the extent that both preference and motivation for time alone shapes ill-being during self-isolation. Individuals in the USA and the UK are self-isolating in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Different motivations may drive their self-isolation: some might see value in it (understood as the identified form of autonomous motivation), while others might feel forced into it by authorities or close others (family, friends, neighbourhoods, doctors; the external form of controlled motivation). People who typically prefer company will find themselves spending more time alone, and may experience ill-being uniformly, or as a function of their identified or external motivations for self-isolation. Self-isolation, therefore, offers a unique opportunity to distinguish two constructs coming from disparate literatures. This project examined preference and motivation (identified and external) for solitude, and tested their independent and interacting contributions to ill-being (loneliness, depression and anxiety during the time spent alone) across two weeks. Confirmatory hypotheses regarding preference and motivation were not supported by the data. A statistically significant effect of controlled motivation on change in ill-being was observed one week later, and preference predicted ill-being across two weeks. However, effect sizes for both were below our minimum threshold of interest.

Full text available at RSOS

Full reference:

Weinstein, N., & Nguyen, T. V. (2020). Motivation and preference in isolation: a test of their different influences on responses to self-isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak. Royal Society open science, 7(5), 200458. 

Weinstein, Przybylski & Ryan, 2012.

The index of autonomous functioning: Development of a scale of human autonomy.

A growing interest in the functional importance of dispositional autonomy led to the development and validation of the Index of Autonomous Functioning (IAF) across seven studies. The IAF provides a measure of trait autonomy based on three theoretically derived subscales assessing authorship/self-congruence, interest-taking, and low susceptibility to control. Results showed consistency within and across subscales, and appropriate placement within a nomological network of constructs. Diary studies demonstrated IAF relations with higher well-being, greater daily satisfaction of basic psychological needs, and more autonomous engagement in daily activities. Using an experimental approach, the IAF was shown to predict more positive interactions among dyads. The studies provided a systematic development and validation of a measure of autonomy that is brief and reliable.

Weinstein, N., Przybylski, A. K., & Ryan, R. M. (2012). The index of autonomous functioning: Development of a scale of human autonomy. Journal of Research in Personality, 46(4), 397-413.​doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2012.03.007

Nguyen et al., 2021.

The Possibilities of Aloneness and Solitude: Developing an Understanding Framed through the Lens of Human Motivation and Needs. 

We review literature and experimental data to distinguish solitude from other situations where people are alone but preoccupied by external activities or presence of other people. We further explore meaningful factors shaping solitary experiences, including the reasons for which we find ourselves alone, the activities that we engage in, and the characteristics of solitude that feel authentic and true to ourselves. Thus, this chapter aims to advance understanding of the nuances around our solitary experiences and emphasizes the importance of exploring the nuances of solitude instead of treating it as a unidimensional phenomenon.

Full text available on psyarxiv

Full reference:

Nguyen, T. V. T., Weinstein, N., & Ryan, R. M. (2021). The Possibilities of Aloneness and Solitude: Developing an Understanding Framed through the Lens of Human Motivation and Needs. The Handbook of Solitude: Psychological Perspectives on Social Isolation, Social Withdrawal, and Being Alone, 224-239.

Nguyen, Ryan, & Deci, 2018.

Solitude as an approach to affective self-regulation.

In this research, we showed that solitude generally has a deactivation effect on people’s affective experiences, decreasing both positive and negative high-arousal affects. In Study 1, we found that the deactivation effect occurred when people were alone, but not when they were with another person. Study 2 showed that this deactivation effect did not depend on whether or not the person was engaged in an activity such as reading when alone. In Study 3, high-arousal positive affect did not drop in a solitude condition in which participants specifically engaged in positive thinking or when they actively chose what to think about. Finally, in Study 4, we found that solitude could lead to relaxation and reduced stress when individuals actively chose to be alone. This research thus shed light on solitude effects in the past literature, and on people’s experiences when alone and the different factors that moderate these effects.

Nguyen, T. V. T., Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2018). Solitude as an approach to affective self-regulation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 44(1), 92-106.doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167217733073