Social exclusion is known to cause alterations in neural alarm activity as well as perceptions of social distress. However, previous research is largely limited to examining neural activation aggregated within blocks of social interactions, which does not allow for the examination of adjustments in neural alarm processes, or additional task-relevant attentional processes, during social interactions. To address these limitations, we examined neural alarm activity and other attention-related neural processes on a trial-by-trial basis during different social interactions that were characterized as largely inclusive or exclusive. Our results show neural alarm activation, evidenced by the N2 component, in response to all exclusionary events, even during inclusionary interactions. Further, we show that the explicit allocation of attention toward an exclusionary experience, indexed by the P3b, is associated with self-reported social distress while the mere activation of the neural alarm is not; implying that neural alarm activation is not specific to prolonged exposure to social exclusion and related social pain. Finally, during the exclusionary interaction, both the N2 and P3 showed larger amplitudes in the earlier stages of exclusion compared to the later stages, suggesting heightened early sensitivity for both components, and P3 amplitude was larger to exclusionary events compared to the two inclusionary interactions, indicating a contextual influence of exclusion.


Psychology | Social Psychology