Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

Lauri A Jensen-Campbell


Ostracism, also labeled social exclusion, is seen by researchers and lay persons alike as one of the more socially painful events that is an inevitable part of life. Moreover, many theorists (e.g., Zadro, Williams, and Richardson, 2004) believe that no one is immune to the negative power of ostracism and that this sensitivity to ostracism is both primitive and adaptive. The primary focus of this dissertation was to examine how personality might moderate this sensitivity to social exclusion. In the first phase of the study, college students (N = 145) came to the laboratory in small groups to complete self-descriptions of their personality. Several days or weeks later, the participants came back to the lab individually to play Cyberball, an online ball-tossing game in which they believed they were playing with other participants as part of a mental visualization task. In reality, the "other" participants were computerized confederates programmed by the researcher to simulate interpersonal ostracism. Participants were randomly assigned to be excluded or not excluded while playing Cyberball. After playing Cyberball, participants self-reported on their mood, threatened needs, dread of future interaction, and threat perception. Participants then interacted with a confederate blind to the experimental condition. Participants believed this confederate was one of the individuals with whom they had just played Cyberball. Results suggested some noteworthy qualifications about ostracism's general influence. First, need to belong (nBelong) moderated the influence of ostracism on threatened needs and changes in affect. Moreover, nBelong indirectly influenced face-to-face interactions via threatened self-esteem. Second, socially anxious participants reported more threatened needs, dread of future interactions, and threat perception after controlling for levels of exclusion. That is, the influence of social anxiety was additive to the influence of ostracism. Although social anxiety did not exacerbate the influence of ostracism, participants who had the worst outcomes were both excluded and socially anxious. Finally, securely attachment had an indirect influence on short-term reactions to exclusion. The results suggest that although no one was completely immune from the power of ostracism, certain aspects of personality may help to buffer against some of its influence.


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

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