Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Pain of ostracism can be deep, long-lasting

Date:
June 6, 2011
Source:
Purdue University
Summary:
Ostracism or exclusion may not leave external scars, but it can cause pain that often is deeper and lasts longer than a physical injury, according to an expert.

Kipling D. Williams, a Purdue professor of psychological sciences, studies how ostracism hurts individuals as much or even more than a physical injury.
Credit: Purdue University photo/Mark Simons

Ostracism or exclusion may not leave external scars, but it can cause pain that often is deeper and lasts longer than a physical injury, according to a Purdue University expert.

"Being excluded or ostracized is an invisible form of bullying that doesn't leave bruises, and therefore we often underestimate its impact," said Kipling D. Williams, a professor of psychological sciences. "Being excluded by high school friends, office colleagues, or even spouses or family members can be excruciating. And because ostracism is experienced in three stages, the life of those painful feelings can be extended for the long term. People and clinicians need to be aware of this so they can avoid depression or other negative experiences."

When a person is ostracized, the brain's dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, which registers physical pain, also feels this social injury, Williams said. The process of ostracism includes three stages: the initial acts of being ignored or excluded, coping and resignation.

Williams' research is reported in the current issue of Current Directions in Psychological Sciences. The article was co-authored by Steve A. Nida, associate provost and dean of The Citadel Graduate College and a professor of psychology.

"Being excluded is painful because it threatens fundamental human needs, such as belonging and self-esteem," Williams said. "Again and again research has found that strong, harmful reactions are possible even when ostracized by a stranger or for a short amount of time."

More than 5,000 people have participated in studies using a computer game designed by Williams to show how just two or three minutes of ostracism can produce lingering negative feelings.

"How can it be that such a brief experience, even when being ignored and excluded by strangers with whom the individual will never have any face-to-face interaction, can have such a powerful effect?" he said. "The effect is consistent even though individuals' personalities vary."

People also vary in how they cope, which is the second stage of ostracism. Coping can mean the person tries to harder be included. For example, some of those who are ostracized may be more likely to engage in behaviors that increase their future inclusion by mimicking, complying, obeying orders, cooperating or expressing attraction.

"They will go to great lengths to enhance their sense of belonging and self-esteem," Williams said.

If they feel there is little hope for re-inclusion or that they have little control over their lives, they may resort to provocative behavior and even aggression.

"At some point, they stop worrying about being liked, and they just want to be noticed," Williams said.

However, if a person has been ostracized for a long time, they may not have the ability to continue coping as the pain lingers. Some people may give up, Williams said.

"The third stage is called resignation. This is when people who have been ostracized are less helpful and more aggressive to others in general," he said. "It also increases anger and sadness, and long-term ostracism can result in alienation, depression, helplessness and feelings of unworthiness."

Williams is trying to better understand how ostracized individuals may be attracted to extreme groups and what might be the reactions of ostracized groups.

"These groups provide members with a sense of belonging, self-worth and control, but they can fuel narrowness, radicalism and intolerance, and perhaps a propensity toward hostility and violence toward others," he said. "When a person feels ostracized they feel out of control, and aggressive behavior is one way to restore that control. When these individuals come together in a group there can be negative consequences."

Williams is a professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences in Purdue's College of Health and Human Sciences.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. K. D. Williams, S. A. Nida. Ostracism: Consequences and Coping. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2011; 20 (2): 71 DOI: 10.1177/0963721411402480

Cite This Page:

Purdue University. "Pain of ostracism can be deep, long-lasting." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110510151216.htm>.
Purdue University. (2011, June 6). Pain of ostracism can be deep, long-lasting. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110510151216.htm
Purdue University. "Pain of ostracism can be deep, long-lasting." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110510151216.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Researchers say women who diet at a young age are at greater risk of developing harmful health habits, including eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
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