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Are Single People More Open and More Observant?

In a culture so saturated with singlism and matrimania, it is a rare treat to find a serious discussion in which it is single life that is said to bring special insights or benefits. Occasionally, though, it does happen.

In her review of Vivian Gornick’s The Odd Woman and the City, Rachel Shteir describes some of what the book is about:

“On the street alone, Gornick encounters ragtag characters who tech her about her humanity. Or tell her to bugger off. Both the highs and the lows make her life richer.”

Then Shteir adds this:

“Would she be so open, so available, so observant, if she were surrounded by the comforts of marriage and family?”

As an example of an enlightened view of single life, this one is marred by the assumption that equates marriage and family with comfort. Setting that aside, what about the rest of it? On city streets or other venues of everyday life, are single people more open and more observant than married people?

I don’t know of any relevant research, so I’m just speculating. Personally, I can be a very internal person, preoccupied with my own thoughts. So that can make me more clueless than observant. But what about single people more generally?

Single people who choose their single life (such as those who are single at heart) are living outside of the conventions of societies that celebrate marriage and coupling. Maybe that makes them more open. They are crafting lives of their own, rather than following cultural scripts. Maybe that makes them more observant. Maybe they look at life more closely, with an open mind.

What do you think?

[Note. At long last, I’ve joined Twitter, @belladepaulo. I’m looking for interesting people to follow, especially (but not only) if they are interested in singles’ issues and innovative ways of living.]

Woman on a bike photo available from Shutterstock

Are Single People More Open and More Observant?

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single." Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2015). Are Single People More Open and More Observant?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Jul 2015
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