Feeling Unrestricted by Rules: Ostracism Promotes Aggressive Responses

Adopting a multi-method approach, three studies examined the role of rule negligence in influencing the effect of ostracism on aggression. In the first two studies, it was found, as predicted, that ostracized participants reported higher levels of rule negligence and aggression than those who had not been ostracized; also in line with predictions, enhanced feelings of rule negligence mediated the relation between ostracism and aggression. A third study showed that priming ostracized people with the importance of following social rules weakened the effect of ostracism on aggression. The findings are noteworthy because ostracism is a prominent aspect of indirect (relational) aggression: it is therefore important to know that one of its consequences is to raise aggressiveness, and that this is mediated by ignoring social rules, which in turn can be countered by reminding ostracized people of the importance of following social rules. This research therefore provides both an understanding of the psychological mechanism underlying the effect of ostracism on aggression, and a demonstration that this can be influenced by prosocial priming so as to weaken the aggressive tendency of ostracized individuals.

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