Annual Review of Psychology

Vol. 58:425-452 (Volume publication date January 2007)
First published online as a Review in Advance on August 25, 2006


Abstract In this review, I examine the social psychological research on ostracism, social exclusion, and rejection. Being ignored, excluded, and/or rejected signals a threat for which reflexive detection in the form of pain and distress is adaptive for survival. Brief ostracism episodes result in sadness and anger and threaten fundamental needs. Individuals then act to fortify or replenish their thwarted need or needs. Behavioral consequences appear to be split into two general categories: attempts to fortify relational needs (belonging, self-esteem, shared understanding, and trust), which lead generally to prosocial thoughts and behaviors, or attempts to fortify efficacy/existence needs of control and recognition that may be dealt with most efficiently through antisocial thoughts and behaviors. Available research on chronic exposure to ostracism appears to deplete coping resources, resulting in depression and helplessness.