Ostracism: How Witnessing the Perpetrators Influences Subsequent Experiences of the Target

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Victims of rejection suffer a variety of negative consequences (Baumeister, DeWall, Ciarocco, & Twenge, 2005; Twenge, Baumeister, Tice, & Stucke, 2001; Williams & Zadro, 2001). One form of rejection known as ostracism, which refers to being ignored or excluded, is common and widespread (Williams, Forgas, von Hippel, & Zadro, 2005). Little research has examined the effect of observing ostracism on one's thoughts, feelings, and behavior. My current project examined how witnessing ostracism beforehand influences participant's neural and behavioral reactions to being the target of exclusion. An electroencephalographic (EEG) profile was obtained from each participant while engaged in a social interaction. This interaction was simulated via an online ball-tossing game (Cyberball; Williams, Cheung, & Choi, 2000). Participant distress and ER P component amplitudes were dependent variables. Distress was operationalized as scores on self-reported measures of mood and perceived satisfaction of fundamental needs (Williams, 2001). From the EEG data, conflict-driven N2 (Folstein & Van Petten, 2008) and attention-driven P3 b (Donchin, 1981) components were isolated and average amplitudes measured. R esults indicate that witnessing exclusion has no effect on the self reported distress associated with the personal experience or the amplitude of N2 components for exclusionary events. Witnessing exclusion did, however, affect the amplitude of P3b components for exclusionary events. Specifically, those who witnessed exclusion before joining a largely inclusionary interaction with the previous sources demonstrated significantly reduced P3b amplitudes to exclusionary events (i.e., throws away from participant). These results are explained in the context of conflict monitoring theory.



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