Implications of in-person versus online exclusion: Do method and gender influence individuals' response to exclusion?

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Joshua M. Smyth


Ostracism, Online communication, Exclusion

Subject Categories

Social Psychology


Many of us are reliant on remote forms of communication (e.g., email, texting, etc.) that provide the opportunity to participate in more varied and frequent social interactions. Whether such communication methods affect the quality of social connections is critical to the study of interpersonal interactions. Exclusion (being isolated from others) has been associated with outcomes such as negative affect, lowered self-feelings, aggression, etc. Thus, the question arises whether being excluded via online interactions are similar or different from being excluded in-person. Previous work suggests that, although both mediums produce more negative feelings in response to being ignored (ostracism), that online ostracism may "buffer" (or protect) threats to one's self-esteem and sense of control that arise from being ignored. Furthermore, there is evidence that gender may influence some aspects of exclusion; men and women feel similar aversive responses to ostracism but differ in how they cope with exclusion. Specifically, women are more likely to report decreased self-esteem following exclusion than men, particularly when exclusion occurs in-person. A two-part study was conducted to examine reactions to exclusion as they occur within these two mediums. Study 1 investigated people's anticipated reactions to ostracism either in-person or in a chat room. Participants in Study 2 were randomized into either in-person or chat room ostracism conditions. Overall, participants predicted ostracism would cause psychological distress, and this occurred similarly across the mode of ostracism. Study 2 revealed decreases in positive affect following ostracism; however, participants reported a decrease in negative affect and little change in self ratings. Comparison between the two studies revealed that people anticipate ostracism as being more negative than is actually experienced. Overall, females reported significantly lower post-ostracism positive affect, and inclusion levels than males. Females also reported marginally lower post-ostracism self-esteem than males. Males and females, however, did not report differences in any outcomes as a function ostracism medium. In general, these studies suggest that remote forms of communication are perceived as similarly meaningful avenues of interaction (e.g., particularly when the interactions are with strangers). Future research should examine whether this may be generalized to individuals with less familiarity with this technology.