Confrontation is defined as expressing displeasure with mistreatment and is a behavioral response to ostracism - being ignored and excluded by others. According to the temporal need-threat model of ostracism, targets' interpersonal behaviors following ostracism act to restore depleted need satisfaction and mood. The aims of this research were 1) to examine the use of confrontation in response to ostracism, and 2) to study its effectiveness as a coping method.
In sum, these studies established confrontation as a frequent response to ostracism that is influenced by both the targets' psychological response and the social context in which it occurs. Four experiments were conducted using participants from an introductory psychology subject pool. Study 1 manipulated ostracism to targets' attitudes towards contacting the sources of ostracism. Study 2 used a mixed design and behavioral measure of confrontation to examine how frequently people confront, and potential effects on need-satisfaction and mood over time. Study 3 manipulated the coping method used following ostracism to compare confrontation's effectiveness to a solo writing task and a distraction task. Study 4 examined individual differences and contextual factors that influence the likelihood of confrontation.
Study 1 found that while participants most preferred to take no action, public contact with the ostracism sources was preferred over other options. In Study 2, one in three ostracized participants chose to confront, more frequent than included participants. Study 3 found that confrontation was more effective for reducing anger than the writing task. Distraction was more effective in increasing need-satisfaction compared to the confrontation task. Study 4 showed that male gender, need-depletion, and negative affect increased the likelihood of confrontation. However, these effects varied based on whether or not participants believed they were playing with members of their racial in-group or out-group.
In sum, confrontation was a common response to ostracism. The usage of confrontation was influenced by sadness as well as interactions between social context and psychological responses or individual differences.
- Carter Sowell, Adrienne Associate Professor