Ostracism and Social Pain
Social pain represents an unpleasant emotional response that occurs in reaction to rejection-based experiences. Previous research has theorized that social pain may overlap with physical pain experiences, where they may share similar influences and consequences. Our research found evidence that individual differences matter in the experiences of social pain and that individuals cope with social pain in different ways and with varying rates of satisfaction. The initial findings from lab studies show that carriers of social pain are more susceptible (sensitive) to the occurrence of physical pain compared to participants not exposed to pain stimuli and pain response measures.
When People Experience Ostracism,
Does Confrontation Help?
Another aspect of our research looks at whether confrontation is an effective way to respond to when a person is ostracized. For the most part, the research has focused on whether confrontation changes the behaviors and attitudes of people who are doing the ostracizing. Our research asks how confrontation affects the ostracized. The findings show that immediately following an ostracism episode, distracting oneself helps improve satisfaction and well-being more than confronting the ostracism situation. These ostracism experiences can be psychologically depleting, and confronting right away may lead to more depletion. Thus, distracting oneself provides a brief respite before fully processing the episode. [read the publication here: Zimmerman, Carter-Sowell & Ganesan, 2021]
Ostracism and Support Seeking
Another part of our research program focuses on how individuals cope with ostracism and whether ostracized individuals seek social support. Some of our findings show that ostracized individuals are less likely to seek social support than those going through a new (but not ostracizing) experience. These findings were also replicated in a diverse sample of ethnic minority and majority students, who reported similar reported lower social support seeking after having experienced ostracism. These findings suggest that social support seeking after experiencing ostracism is not a common coping method.