Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Study illuminates the 'pain' of social rejection

Date:
March 30, 2011
Source:
University of Michigan
Summary:
Physical pain and intense feelings of social rejection "hurt" in the same way, a new study shows.

New research shows that physical pain and intense feelings of social rejection "hurt" in the same way.
Credit: iStockphoto/Photo_Concepts

Physical pain and intense feelings of social rejection "hurt" in the same way, a new study shows.

The study demonstrates that the same regions of the brain that become active in response to painful sensory experiences are activated during intense experiences of social rejection.

"These results give new meaning to the idea that social rejection 'hurts'," said University of Michigan social psychologist Ethan Kross, lead author of the article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "On the surface, spilling a hot cup of coffee on yourself and thinking about how rejected you feel when you look at the picture of a person that you recently experienced an unwanted break-up with may seem to elicit very different types of pain.

"But this research shows that they may be even more similar than initially thought."

Kross, an assistant professor at the U-M Department of Psychology and faculty associate at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR), conducted the study with U-M colleague Marc Berman, Columbia University's Walter Mischel and Edward Smith, also affiliated with the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and with Tor Wager of the University of Colorado, Boulder.

While earlier research has shown that the same brain regions support the emotionally distressing feelings that accompany the experience of both physical pain and social rejection, the current study is the first known to establish that there is neural overlap between both of these experiences in brain regions that become active when people experience painful sensations in their body.

These regions are the secondary somatosensory cortex and the dorsal posterior insula.

For the study, the researchers recruited 40 people who experienced an unwanted romantic break-up within the past six months, and who indicated that thinking about their break-up experience led them to feel intensely rejected. Each participant completed two tasks in the study -- one related to their feelings of rejection and the other to sensations of physical pain.

During the rejection task, participants viewed either a photo of their ex-partner and thought about how they felt during their break-up experience or they viewed a photo of a friend and thought about a recent positive experience they had with that person. During the physical pain task, a thermal stimulation device was attached to participants left forearm. On some trials the probe delivered a painful but tolerable stimulation akin to holding a very hot cup of coffee. On other trials it delivered non-painful, warm stimulation.

Participants performed all tasks while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans. The researchers conducted a series of analyses of the fMRI scans, focusing on the whole brain and on various regions of interest identified in earlier studies of physical pain. They also compared the study's results to a database of more than 500 previous fMRI studies of brain responses to physical pain, emotion, working memory, attention switching, long-term memory and interference resolution.

"We found that powerfully inducing feelings of social rejection activate regions of the brain that are involved in physical pain sensation, which are rarely activated in neuroimaging studies of emotion," Kross said. "These findings are consistent with the idea that the experience of social rejection, or social loss more generally, may represent a distinct emotional experience that is uniquely associated with physical pain."

The team that performed the research hopes that the findings will offer new insight into how the experience of intense social loss may lead to various physical pain symptoms and disorders. And they point out that the findings affirm the wisdom of cultures around the world that use the same language -- words like "hurt" and "pain" -- to describe the experience of both physical pain and social rejection.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and performed at Columbia University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ethan Kross, Marc G. Berman, Walter Mischel, Edward E. Smith, Tor D. Wager. Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1102693108

Cite This Page:

University of Michigan. "Study illuminates the 'pain' of social rejection." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110328151726.htm>.
University of Michigan. (2011, March 30). Study illuminates the 'pain' of social rejection. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110328151726.htm
University of Michigan. "Study illuminates the 'pain' of social rejection." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110328151726.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Get on Your Bike! London Cycling Popularity Soars Despite Danger

Get on Your Bike! London Cycling Popularity Soars Despite Danger

AFP (Sep. 1, 2014) Wedged between buses, lorries and cars, cycling in London isn't for the faint hearted. Nevertheless the number of people choosing to bike in the British capital has doubled over the past 15 years. Duration: 02:27 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) New research says if you condition yourself to eat healthy foods, eventually you'll crave them instead of junk food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Liberia Continues Fight Against Ebola

Liberia Continues Fight Against Ebola

AFP (Aug. 30, 2014) Authorities in Liberia try to stem the spread of the Ebola epidemic by raising awareness and setting up sanitation units for people to wash their hands. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins