Social exclusion decreases prosocial behavior

Jean M. Twenge, Natalie J. Ciarocco, Roy F. Baumeister, C. Nathan DeWall, J. Michael Bartels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

821 Scopus citations


In 7 experiments, the authors manipulated social exclusion by telling people that they would end up alone later in life or that other participants had rejected them. Social exclusion caused a substantial reduction in prosocial behavior. Socially excluded people donated less money to a student fund, were unwilling to volunteer for further lab experiments, were less helpful after a mishap, and cooperated less in a mixed-motive game with another student. The results did not vary by cost to the self or by recipient of the help, and results remained significant when the experimenter was unaware of condition. The effect was mediated by feelings of empathy for another person but was not mediated by mood, state self-esteem, belongingness, trust, control, or self-awareness. The implication is that rejection temporarily interferes with emotional responses, thereby impairing the capacity for empathic understanding of others, and as a result, any inclination to help or cooperate with them is undermined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-66
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • Emotional responses
  • Empathy
  • Helping
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Social exclusion
  • Social rejection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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