Rejection Elicits Emotional Reactions but Neither Causes Immediate Distress nor Lowers Self-Esteem: A Meta-Analytic Review of 192 Studies on Social Exclusion

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Competing predictions about the effect of social exclusion were tested by meta-analyzing findings from studies of interpersonal rejection, ostracism, and similar procedures. Rejection appears to cause a significant shift toward a more negative emotional state. Typically, however, the result was an emotionally neutral state marked by low levels of both positive and negative affect. Acceptance caused a slight increase in positive mood and a moderate increase in self-esteem. Self-esteem among rejected persons was no different from neutral controls. These findings are discussed in terms of belongingness motivation, sociometer theory, affective numbing, and self-esteem defenses.