What is ostracism?
Ostracism is any act of banishing, shunning, ignoring, or excluding. It can be carried out by one individual upon another or by a group. It comes in many forms and levels of severity. Most of us can relate to common examples: feeling left out, giving or receiving the silent treatment, time-outs for misbehavior, locking oneself in a room after an argument, hanging up the phone in mid-conversation, unanswered email, and ending a friendship or relationship. A few of us have experienced other more severe forms of ostracism: peer rejection in schools, excommunication, banishment, or solitary confinement.
Studies have shown that the emotional impact of rejection and ostracism upon an individual can be devastating, especially if the form of ostracism used was severe and prolonged. Although the emotional wounds are not visible to the naked eye, they can be more painful and longer lasting than physical wounds. It is my hope that information provided in this website will help more people understand this pervasive social phenomenon, and provide relief for people suffering from severe ostracism.
Something to note: I am not against all forms of ostracism, although I dislike most forms. Most kinds of ostracism are hurtful and not recommended, as there are usually better ways to set boundaries and resolve conflicts. Occasionally, ostracism is necessary, such as removing oneself from a violent or life threatening situation. It is my hope that this website will help people make informed decisions about ostracism. As people become aware of ostracism's effects and other options available for resolving conflicts, hopefully it will save some friendships and relationships.
Information about ostracism
Great research has been done on ostracism by a number of respected psychologists and social scientists. More research is turning up every year, and that has provided us with a wealth of valuable insights. Below are links to excellent articles, documents, case studies, books, podcasts, and more.
- "Ostracism" by Sally Singer Horwatt, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist
- Pain of Ostracism Can Be Deep, Long-Lasting - Science News
- "Singled Out" by Beth Azar, American Psychological Association
- Reactions to Discrimination, Stigmatization, Ostracism, and Other Forms of Interpersonal Rejection - Blackhart GC, Nelson BC, Knowles ML, Baumeister RF. Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2009 Nov; 13(4):269-309. Epub 2009 Sep 21.
- "Effects of ostracism are a health concern" - News-Medical.Net
- Facing History and Ourselves - Bullying: A Case Study in Ostracism - "This website explores issues of bullying and ostracism by looking at a particular incident that occurred in a middle school, primarily involving a group of girls. What started as a small event quickly turned into a serious situation."
- Ostracism Causes Lingering Pain in the Brain - article written by Dr. Amen
- "Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain" - Ethan Krossa, Marc G. Bermana, Walter Mischelb, Edward E. Smithb, and Tor D. Wagerd
- Podcast: Ostracism - Interview with Kipling D. Williams, Ph.D. and Steve A. Nida, Ph.D., two professors of psychology who performed extensive research on ostracism. They published "Ostracism: Consequences and Coping" in "Current Directions in Psychological Science". The podcast is on on Voices in The Family.
- "Ostracism: Consequences and Coping" by Kipling D. Williams, Ph.D. and Steve A. Nida, Ph.D.
- Book: "Ostracism: The Power of Silence" by Kipling D. Williams PhD - This is an excellent resource and a must-read for anyone who has witnessed or experienced ostracism. Williams has researched thousands of participants in various experiments and conducted hundreds of interviews with ostracized people. This book is well written, entertaining, highly informative, and nicely spiced with great anecdotes.
- The Pain of Rejection By Social Groups - by Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.
- Ostracism: How much it hurts depends on how you remember it - By Lau, Gloria; Moulds, Michelle L.; Richardson, Rick Emotion, Vol 9(3), Jun 2009, 430-434.
- Shunning and Social Rejection: Why am I a social outcast? - by Li-Or on SayWhyDoI.com - Reasons behind social rejection classified into four main groups - Disclaimer: Much of what is written in this article is based on the author's own extrapolations and theorizing.
- "Teasing, rejection, and violence: Case studies of the school shootings" - Leary, M. R., Kowalski, R. M., & Smith, L. (2003). - In 15 school shootings between 1995 and 2001, acute or chronic rejection was present in all except 2 cases.