Social Exclusion and Pain Sensitivity
Some research indicates that social exclusion leads to increased emotional- and physical-pain sensitivity, whereas other work indicates that exclusion causes emotional- and physical-pain numbing. This research sought to examine what causes these opposing outcomes. In Study 1, the paradigm used to instantiate social exclusion was found to moderate the social exclusion-physical pain relation: Future-life exclusion led to a numbing of physical pain whereas Cyberball exclusion led to hypersensitivity. Study 2 examined the underlying mechanism, which was hypothesized to be the severity of the “social injury.” Participants were subjected to either the standard future-life exclusion manipulation (purported to be a highly severe social injury) or a newly created, less-severe version. Supporting our hypothesis, the standard (highly severe) future-life exclusion led to physical-pain numbing, whereas the less-severe future-life exclusion resulted in hypersensitivity. Implications of these results for understanding the exclusion–pain relation and other exclusion effects are discussed.