Study: People who ostracize others could be hurting, too

Researchers have found that ostracizing other people had a negative impact on the feelings of the ostracizer as well as their victim.

Bullies with the blues have only themselves to blame, according to a new study.

Research published in the journal Psychological Science said deliberately ignoring or excluding someone can hurt the ostracizer as much as their victim.

"By causing harm to others, the perpetrators may be thwarting their own basic psychological needs to feel in control and to feel connected to others," the researchers found.

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Richard Ryan of the University of Rochester, with graduate student Nicole Legate, explored this by having participants play a ball-throwing computer game.

One group, the ostracizer group, was told not to throw the ball to a certain player; the compliance group was told to throw the ball around equally. A neutral group was allowed to throw the ball to whomever they wanted.

"Participants in the ostracizer condition reported worse mood, which seemed to be the result of a diminished sense of independence and a lack of connectedness with others," the researchers found.

In a second experiment, some participants rarely got the ball and were ostracized by other players. They, too, reported negative feelings, but where the ostracizers felt shame and guilt, the ostracized felt anger.

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"This speaks positively about human nature," Ryan said. "Our results highlight that it goes against the grain of people's psychological needs to exclude others."

Participants who ostracized others and that were ostracized had strong emotional reactions to the treatment, even though they were never face to face. This, the researchers said, suggests that "people are wired to feel distress when doing harm to others, even when they are anonymous and unseen."

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