"For most people, ostracism usually engenders a concerted effort to be included again, though not necessarily by the group that shunned us. We do this by agreeing with, mimicking, obeying or cooperating with others. In our 2000 study, for example, Cheung and Choi asked participants to perform a perceptual task in which they had to memorize a simple shape such as a triangle and correctly identify the shape within a more complex figure. Before they made their decision, we flashed the supposed answers of other participants on the screen. Those who had been previously ostracized ... were more likely than included players to give the same answers as the majority of participants, even though the majority was always wrong. Those who had been excluded wanted to fit in, even if that meant ignoring their own better judgment.
"Studies reveal that even subtle, artificial or ostensibly unimportant exclusion can lead to strong emotional reactions. A strong reaction makes sense when your spouse's family or close circle of friends rejects or shuns you, because these people are important to you. It is more surprising that important instances of being barred are not necessary for intense feelings of rejection to emerge. We can feel awful even after people we have never met simply look the other way.
“This reaction serves a function: it warns us that something is wrong, that there exists a serious threat to our social and psychological well-being. Psychologists Roy Baumeister of Florida State University and Mark Leary of Duke University had argued in a 1995 article that belonging to a group was a need, not a desire or preference, and, when thwarted over a period of time, it leads to psychological and physical illness. Meanwhile other researchers have hypothesized that belonging, self-esteem, a sense of control over your life and a belief that existence is meaningful constitute the four fundamental psychological needs that we must meet to function as social individuals.
"Ostracism uniquely threatens all these needs. Even in a verbal or physical altercation, individuals are still connected. Total exclusion, however, severs all bonds. Social rejection also deals a uniquely harsh blow to self-esteem, because it implies wrongdoing. Worse, the imposed silence forces us to ruminate, generating self-deprecating thoughts in our search for an explanation. The forced isolation also makes us feel helpless: you can fight back, but no one will respond.
Finally, ostracism makes our very existence feel less meaningful because this type of rejection makes us feel invisible and unimportant. The magnitude of the emotional impact of ostracism impacts us in another sense;, social exclusion interferes not only with reproductive success, but also with survival. People who do not belong are not included in collaborations necessary to obtain and share food and also lack protection against enemies.
"Although personality seems to have no influence on our immediate reactions to ostracism, strong joyful character traits do affect how quickly we recover from it and how we cope with the experience. People who are socially anxious tend to ruminate, or are prone to depression take longer to recover from ostracism than other people do."
This is a segment of a book written by Kipling D. Williams, published in Scientific American Mind entitled The Pain of Exclusion, pages 30-37, January/February 2011