College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-11-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Verena Graupmann, PhD

Second Advisor

Kimberly Quinn, PhD

Third Advisor

Ralph Erber, PhD


Ostracism is a form of social exclusion characterized primarily by the experience of being ignored in a social situation. Ostracism is psychologically significant not only because it separates us from desirable social interactions but also because it provides information about how others view us. Investigations of seemingly deliberate ostracism have consistently shown that exclusion threatens people’s sense of self; yet little research directly compares how consequences differ when people believe they were excluded deliberately versus unintentionally. Across five studies, we explored whether the ostracizer’s perceived intent to exclude affected participants sense of self and their subsequent thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Due to scarce prior research, most comparisons were explored as research questions; however, we hypothesized that deliberate ostracism would generate greater feelings of exclusion, greater threat to basic self-related needs, and motivate greater behavioral withdrawal. In Studies 1 and 2, participants recalled a time in their life when they were excluded either deliberately or unintentionally. In Studies 3 and 4, participants were randomly assigned to a deliberate ostracism, unintentional ostracism, or control condition within a new, immersive paradigm where participants engaged with group members through an online chatboard. Recall paradigm results supported study hypotheses. Findings from the immersive chatboard paradigm were mixed: participants who were deliberately ostracized versus unintentionally ostracized felt more excluded and reported greater need threat but did not report less desire to affiliate with their ostracizers. Unintentionally ostracized participants did not report lower self-esteem than control participants but did report greater feelings of isolation and lower expectations for self-related need fulfillment during an upcoming group task. Overall findings observed consequences for both deliberate and unintentional ostracism. Future research should continue to delineate the unique effects of unintentional ostracism, as understanding the contexts in which perceived intent threatens our sense of self remains important for predicting and addressing the everyday consequences of social exclusion.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons