Research decodes how social ostracism affects humans
In order to restore basic psychological needs, such as, belonging, self-esteem, control over one’s environment, having a meaningful existence, people can engage in a variety of behaviours. Some of them are not positive.Updated: Feb 25, 2019 18:55 IST
Being socially ostracised inspires feelings of anger, sadness and revenge in humans, some of whom even express interest in joining gangs after being left out, finds a research. According to Andy Hales, a postdoctoral researcher in social psychology from the University of Virginia, human motivation is to maintain four basic psychological needs: belonging, self-esteem, control over one’s environment, having a meaningful existence.
Hales and his team created several different scenarios to see how people reacted when those basic needs were threatened by ostracism. “In order to restore those needs, people can engage in a variety of behaviours. Some of them are pretty positive,” Hales said and added, “But there are also times when aggression may be a more attractive alternative, especially if people are trying to restore their needs for meaningful existence or control over the environment.”
In a study, published in the Journal of Social Issues, the team studied the reactions of people who would not ordinarily be interested in identifying with extreme groups. “But when you are ostracised and starved of social connection, you might be temporarily more open to groups that would be otherwise unappealing,” he said, much like a very hungry person might be more open to eating food that normally would not be tempting.
Another study, detailed in the Journal of Social Psychology, examined how people feel when their companions paid more attention to their cellphones than their partners. “What we found is that people reported greater threats to their basic needs when they had recalled an experience where their conversation partner had used a cellphone,” Hales said, adding that phone-induced ostracism hurt women more than men.
In a third collection of experiments, Hales revealed that feeling ignored or unacknowledged is worse for a person’s mental health than receiving bad news. On the other hand, being acknowledged eased the pain of the rejection. “We know ostracism is a hurtful experience,” Hales said. “You’re essentially being treated like a ghost, like you’re not even there.”
First Published: Feb 25, 2019 18:55 IST