The consequences of social exclusion can be extremely detrimental to physical and emotional well being, ranging from mild distress to extreme violence and aggression. Research findings indicate that witnessing exclusion is just as common as experiencing exclusion and can invoke similar levels of distress. As such, it is also important to examine responses and reactions to the targets after witnessing it. Accordingly, this study examined the association between witnessing and experiencing social exclusion and event-related brain potential (ERP) activity. ERPs were collected while participants played a game of Cyberball with the previous targets of a witnessed inclusion or exclusion and were either included or excluded themselves. Results showed increased N2 and decreased P3b to exclusionary throws regardless of the overall context of the social interaction and regardless of the context of the witnessed interaction. Additionally, participants who were excluded reported lower needs fulfillment and mood than those who were included providing support for the Need Threat model of social exclusion. Further, results showed increased P3b amplitude to inclusionary events after witnessing exclusion. This lends support to the Social Monitoring System suggesting that witnessed exclusion attunes individuals’ attention to social cues in the environment that would increase inclusionary status.
Dunn, Kaitlin R., "Neural and Behavioral Effects of Being Excluded by the Targets of a Witnessed Social Exclusion" (2014). Honors Projects. 164.