Two Sides of the Coin: Breaking Social Units and the Effects of Ostracism on the Source of Ostracism

Date of Completion

January 2011


Psychology, Social




Much of the research on social rejection has focused on the perspective of the target. Less often studied is the person doing the rejecting, the ostracizer, for whom primarily positive outcomes have been shown. However, if social connections between people are recognized as mutual, it is possible that social rejection might have negative consequences for both people. This model, tested in this dissertation, predicts that the ostracizer will be negatively affected when that mutual social connection is broken, no matter who initiated the break. In a series of three experiments, participants in a computer-controlled online chat were assigned to conditions in which they were either: included positively, included negatively, excluded from the interaction, or induced to exclude another. Afterwards, participants were assessed on four basic psychological needs typically found to be undermined after experiencing social rejection: needs for belonging, self esteem, meaningful existence and control. Results of all experiments revealed that the ostracizer had a negative psychological reaction to the experience comparable to participants who were the target of ostracism. The ostracizer consistently showed feelings of disconnection and increased desire to reconnect. Experiments 2 and 3 examined whether the ostracizer would experience greater disruptions self-regulation and an increased expression of prosocial behavior. These effects were expected to be moderated by a subsequent reengagement experience for self-regulation and cognitive load for the prosocial behavior. The primary results of Experiment 2 did not support the prediction but rather indicated no effects of manipulations on one of the self-regulation measures, and an unexpected reduction due to being reengaged, though primarily for nonostracism participants. In Experiment 3, two of the three prosocial measures were unaffected by manipulations. However, on the third measure, donating money, the ostracizers donated generously to a charity (though not significantly more so than nonostracizers). When the donation source was the person they had rejected, however, they gave significantly less, in contrast to participants who had not been ostracizers. These experiments provide a start to redressing gaps in the social exclusion research and suggest a new line of study that examines the rejection process as a dynamic and two-sided process. ^