Alone and without purpose: Life loses meaning following social exclusion

Tyler F. Stillman, Roy F. Baumeister, Nathaniel M. Lambert, A. Will Crescioni, C. Nathan DeWall, Frank D. Fincham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

352 Scopus citations


Four studies (N = 643) supported the hypothesis that social exclusion would reduce the global perception of life as meaningful. Social exclusion was manipulated experimentally by having a confederate refuse to meet participants after seeing their videotaped introduction (Study 1) and by ostracizing participants in a computerized ball-tossing game (Study 2). Compared to control condition and acceptance conditions, social exclusion led to perceiving life as less meaningful. Exclusion was also operationalized as self-reported loneliness, which was a better predictor of low meaning than other potent variables (Study 3). Study 4 found support for Baumeister's model of meaning (1991), by demonstrating that the effect of exclusion on meaning was mediated by purpose, value, and positive self-worth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686-694
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The present research was supported by Grant MH65559 from the National Institutes of Health.


  • Meaning
  • Ostracism
  • Social rejection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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