The lack of belonging or frequent exposure to social ostracism has maladaptive psychological and physical consequences. However, little is known about the mechanisms underlying the neural processes of social ostracism. Previously, Williams (2009) showed a decrease in theta power in the frontal lobe when female participants were ostracized in a virtual chat-room. Using male and female Illinois Wesleyan college students, this study manipulated two powerful social cues (biological sex and attractiveness level) to determine their effect on prefrontal brain activity in response to social ostracism in a virtual chat-room environment. Using EEG technology, frontal theta power (4-8Hz) was measured using three cortical electrodes (the F3, F4, and Fz sites). Using a similar procedure to Williams (2009), social ostracism was elicited using a well-established chat-room paradigm that involved 4 phases. In the introduction, inclusion, and re-inclusion phases, participants were actively involved in the conversation, in contrast to being actively ignored during the exclusionary phase. During the exclusionary phase of the experiment, we hypothesize a significant decrease in theta power across gender and attractiveness levels in the frontal lobe. Results revealed the virtual chat-room paradigm was successful in eliciting feelings of social ostracism. Participants reported lower levels of enjoyment, F(2, 35) = 103.413, p = .000, interest, F(2, 35) = 89.89, p = .000, and participation F(2, 35) = 197.76, p = .000, as well as lines typed, F(1.564, 35) = 104.98, p = .000, during the exclusionary phase in comparison to the inclusionary phases. In addition, males reported experiencing a significantly higher degree of ostracism than females, F(1, 34) = 5.527, p = .025. Theta power showed a non-significant, F(2, 30) = 1.203, p = .180, decrease in between phases, with inclusion showing the highest overall theta power and exclusion and re-inclusion showing lower degrees of theta power.
Kern, Daniel M., "The Evolution of Social Pain: Understanding the Neural Network of Social Ostracism through Electroencephalography" (2011). Honors Projects. Paper 150.