Reaching out by changing what's within: Social exclusion increases self-concept malleability

Stephanie B. Richman, Erica B. Slotter, Wendi L. Gardner, C. Nathan DeWall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


People have a fundamental need to belong that, when thwarted, can affect cognition and behavior in ways designed to regain social connection. Because one of the best predictors of social connection is similarity, the current investigation tests the self-malleability hypothesis, which predicts social exclusion encourages people to modify their self-concepts to increase similarity to others, presumably in pursuit of renewed affiliation. Five studies supported the self-malleability hypothesis. Excluded people expanded their self-concept to incorporate new attributes characteristic of a novel social target but which they did not originally perceive as characteristic of themselves (Study 1). This effect was limited to targets that were construed as potential friends (Study 2) and occurred regardless of whether the potential friend was aware of the change (Study 3). Additionally, after recalling an exclusion experience, people modified even existing self-views to increase similarity to a potential friend (Studies 4a and 4b). Thus, socially excluded people alter the self to gain social connection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-77
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Inc.


  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Self-concept
  • Social exclusion
  • Social reconnection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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