Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Rusty B. McIntyre


Previous research has found that ostracism (being excluded or ignored by others) can cause deleterious effects to one's sense of belonging, control, meaningfulness of life and self-esteem, as well as increasing negative moods. Exclusion has been studied using several methodologies including Cyberball and the Life-Alone task. Additionally, research has demonstrated that individuals react more aggressively following an ostracism event as compared to an inclusion event. Other research finds that ostracized individuals have greater accessibility for aggressive words, and negative self-descriptive words as compared to individuals who are included. These domains have not, however, been explored together to examine how these concepts may interact. Consequently, there is a need for research regarding the relationship between accessibility of concepts following ostracism and how the changes in accessibility relate to the likelihood of aggressive behavior. It was hypothesized that when excluded, either by the Cyberball or the Life-Alone task, participants would demonstrate greater accessibility (measured via reaction time) for weapon words and negative-self descriptive words , as well as slower reaction times to positive inclusion words ) and positive self-descriptive words. The Cyberball task and Life-Alone task were each used to explore whether increased aggressiveness toward other participants would be seen when the other "participant" (a confederate) had an active role in the exclusion (Cyberball) or when the other participant was merely a bystander to the exclusion (Life-Alone). Experiment 1 found that excluded participants (compared to included participants) had lowered feelings of belonging, control, self-esteem, and that life has meaning. Excluded participants also administered significantly greater amounts of hot sauce than included participants. In Experiment 2, excluded participants (compared to included or control conditions) were significantly faster at identifying negative self-descriptive words, had significantly higher levels of rejection anxiety, and administered significantly greater amounts of hot sauce to another participant. The present research can help explain the aggressive responses seen in real-world cases of exclusion, and why victims of exclusion act aggressively toward both the perpetrators of the exclusion, as well as innocent bystanders who have no direct role in the exclusion.