Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Katheryn Maguire


Ostracism is defined as the exclusion of an individual or group by an individual or group. Research suggests that being ostracized can create severe negative psychological reactions in targets. However, there is much less research explicitly focused on how ostracism is communicated and the process of meaning making that allows a target to interpret communication as an ostracism message. Through grounded theory and qualitative interviews, this study asked: What is the process of interpersonal ostracism message meaning making, and what are the key elements that influence this process? Analysis revealed a seven-phase process that explains the stages of meaning making a target will go through during an ostracism event and eleven important factors that affect this process. After a discussion of each phase and factor, the study incorporates Relational Dialectics Theory, Expectancy Violations Theory, and Uncertainty Reduction Theory to conceptualize ostracism as an event as opposed to a single moment, suggesting that meanings are ever changing. The study concludes that targets of ostracism play a crucial role in the reception and interpretation of ostracism messages. Finally, the study proposes limitations and directions for future research.

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