Ostracism paper

Research Proposal
Submitted by: David Nippard
Psychology 341: The Self
Submitted to: Professor E. Koch
November 25th, 2013
Literature Review
Living in today’s society the importance of inclusion and social relationships is crucial
for individuals of all ages. That being said, the worry of being excluded and overlooked is
something that people live with daily. The worry of exclusion is what is known as “ostracism”,
and is present in the lives of everyone. To be ostracized is to be ignored and excluded, and is
painfully experienced by individuals on a regular basis (Wesselmann et al., 2009). Ostracism can
be experienced in many different ways with different levels of severity, for example, individuals
may be left out activities at school while others may be ignored by not receiving a response from
an email or a text message. Such examples may seem minor; however the act of being left out or
being ignored play a significant role toward someone’s level of self-esteem and self-control
(DeWall et al., 2012).
Research suggests that individuals who are ostracized are susceptible to an increase in
depression, more specifically, if the severity of the ostracism is high, then the degree of
depression may also be high (DeWall et al., 2012). Furthermore, individuals who experience
ostracism may not be able to hold their willingness to control impulses, which may lead to
negative consequences. There may be a spiral effect with respect to ostracism, for example,
individuals who experience ostracism may become depressed which may result in behaviours
that can cause them to be ostracized even further, resulting in an even higher degree of
depression (Dewall et al., 2012). When frequent ostracism is experienced, individuals lose the
predisposition to control their impulses. Therefore, the level of ostracism may influence the
degree of depressive symptoms and the capabilities of self-control (Baumeister et al., 2005).
Not only does ostracism affect emotional levels, mood, and self-control, it also has
physiological effects. Being ostracized can have a negative physiological impact resulting in
higher blood pressure and higher levels of cortisol; known as the stress hormone (Coyne et al.,
2011). Children are a common target for ostracism which becomes a threat to a child’s need to
belong. Unfortunately, children who are exposed to ostracism may be victims of reduced
physical activity and an increase in sedentary behaviours (Barkley et al., 2012). This is alarming
because when children are less active and increasingly becoming sedentary, the result is
commonly related to obesity and health concerns. If children are not experiencing the feeling of
inclusion and are often times left out, they no longer have the desire to participate. Research has
suggested that physical pain and ostracism are similar. The brain senses the “pain” and focuses
on the source of ostracism, in turn, applying the proper coping mechanism. This coping
mechanism could promote an increase in sedentary behavior (Williams, 2007). With the growing
research and evidence of ostracism and its effects, researchers claim that other coping
mechanisms may lead to unhealthy behaviours such as increased consumption of unhealthy
foods. When individuals experience ostracism, their focus is directed toward the threat which
causes their attention to be drawn away from self-regulation and self-control, resulting in an
increase in food consumption (Salvy et al., 2011).
Surprisingly not only does the target of ostracism experience negative outcomes, the
source of the ostracism also experiences a negative outcome. Within certain conditions the
experience of negative outcomes may be different for the target of ostracism, and the source of
ostracism. For example, the target may perceive being ostracized as unfair and inexcusable,
resulting in the target being angrier. However, the source of ostracism may experience the
feelings of guilt and embarrassment for excluding or ignoring the target (Poulsen et al., 2011).
Thus far, the discussion of ostracism has been directed toward individuals who have
experienced being ostracized. What about individuals who often see others being ostracized in
different social situations, does the observer empathize with the victim and feel what the target of
ostracism is feeling? It may be possible that observing someone experiencing ostracism is
sufficient enough to cause a personal distress to the individual that is observing the action
(Wesselmann et al., 2009). The power of observing ostracism is strong enough that the feelings
can be felt by the observer. For example, individuals who observed others being excluded from a
game of Cyberball perceived the individuals as feeling ignored and excluded. Moreover, this
observation of ostracism triggered an empathetic response to the individual who simply observed
the action (Wesselmann et al., 2009).
There has been a wide variety of research conducted on ostracism ranging from physical
activity of children to the relationship of depression and being ostracized. However, little
research has examined the effects on work performance or academic performance when exposed
to ostracism. This research proposal will set up empirical tests to examine if ostracism will have
a negative effect on work performance and academic performance. I hypothesize in study 1 that
when individuals are exposed to ostracism by viewing a film, their work performance will
decrease, and will report lower levels of self-esteem. I also hypothesize that when individuals are
exposed to ostracism from participating in a game of Cyberball, their academic performance will
decrease, and reports of self-esteem will also be low.
Introduce the topic of work/academic performance….
Barkley E. J., Salvy S. J., and Roemmich N. J. (2012). The Effect of Simulated Ostracism on
Physical Activity Behaviour in Children. Pediatrics, DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-0496.
Baumeister R. F., DeWall, C. N., Ciaracco, N. J., & Twenge, J. M. (2005). Social exclusion
impairs self-regulation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 589-604.
Coyne S. M., Nelson A. D., Robinson L. S., & Gundersen C. N. (2011). Is Viewing Ostracism on
Television Distressing? The Journal of Social Psychology, 151(3), 213-217.
DeWall C. N., Gilman R., Sharif V., Carboni I., Rice G. K. (2012). Left out, sluggardly and blue:
Low self-control mediates the relationship between ostracism and depression. Personality
and Individual Differences 53, 832-837.
Poulsen R. J., and Kashy A. D. (2011). Two sides of the ostracism coin: How sources and targets
of social exclusion perceive themselves and one another. Group Processes & Intergroup
Relations 15(4) 457-470.
Salvy S. J., Bowker C. J., Nitecki A. L., Kluczynski A. M., Germeroth J. L., Rowmmich N. J.
(2011). Appetite 56(1), 39-45.
Wesselmann D. E., Bagg D., Williams D. K. (2009). “I Feel Your Pain”: The effects of
observing ostracism on the ostracism detection system. Journal of Experimental Social
Psychology 45, 1308-1311.
Williams K.D. (2007). Ostracism: The kiss of social death. Social and Personality Psychology
Compass. 1(1), 236-247.