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When Do We Ostracize?

Ostracism is a common, yet painful social experience. Given the harmful consequences of ostracism, why would groups ostracize their members? Previous research suggests that ostracism is a form of social control used to influence those group members perceived as burdensome. The authors propose that individuals will ostracize a group member only when it is justified (i.e., the member seems burdensome) but will compensate a member who is ostracized undeservedly. In Study 1, a group member was ostracized undeservedly by the other players during an online ball-tossing game. Participants allocated more tosses to that ostracized group member than an included one, compensating the ostracized member. In Study 2, participants continued to compensate an ostracized group member, unless that member was burdensome. Participants indicated punitive motives for ostracizing a burdensome group member. These experimental studies extend research on when individuals use ostracism as social control.

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