Purdue Science on Tap to discuss the implications of ostracism

February 14, 2013  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University expert in psychological sciences will speak on Feb. 21 at the next Science on Tap about his research efforts to better understand what happens to individuals who are repeatedly ostracized and excluded.

Kipling "Kip" Williams, a professor of psychological sciences, will speak at 6 p.m. in the upstairs of the Lafayette Brewing Company, 622 Main St., Lafayette. The talk is titled "Ostracism: Effects of Being Ignored and Excluded."

The event is free and open to those 21 and older. The Purdue Department of Psychological Sciences is sponsoring the talk.

"The phenomena of ostracism, exclusion and rejection have received considerable empirical attention in the last 20 years, in part because of a revitalized interest in the importance of belonging for human social behavior but also because of a converging interest in social pain," he said.

In his research, Williams has defined a temporal model that describes and predicts processes and responses at three stages of reactions to ostracism: reflexive, reflective and resignation. He examines the first two empirically and provides qualitative evidence for resignation.

His research shows that the reflexive pain response triggers threats to four fundamental needs: belonging, self-esteem, control and meaningful existence/acknowledgement. After the reflexive reaction, the person enters the reflective stage, where the pain and need-threat prompts the individual to reflect on the meaning and importance of the incident. That leads to coping responses that involve fortification of the threatened need or needs, he said.

"The situational and individual differences moderate the coping response, and the efficiency and effectiveness of recovery from the pain," Williams said. "Persistent exposure to ostracism depletes the resources necessary to motivate the individual to fortify threatened needs, thus leading eventually to resignation, alienation, helplessness and depression."

A Purdue faculty member since 2004, Williams, has focused his research in group processes and social influence, with an emphasis on ostracism, group motivation and tactics of influence.

Williams, who received his doctorate and master's degree in social psychology from Ohio State University, has taught at Macquarie University and the University of New South Wales, both in Sydney, Australia; and Drake University and the University of Toledo in the United States.

He serves as editor of the publication Social Influence and is on the editorial board for Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, and Group Processes and Intergroup Relations.

The Science on Tap lecture series, led by Purdue graduate students Patrick Dolan and Becca Scott and postdoctoral student Shaili Sharma, provides Purdue faculty and collaborating researchers the opportunity to share research activities in an informal setting, with presentations that are designed to appeal to a more general audience.

Attendance at the monthly event has averaged 80 during the program's first two years.

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu

Sources: Kipling Williams, 765-494-0845, kip@psych.purdue.edu

Patrick Dolan, 765-496-9336, pdolan@purdue.edu

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