The push of social pain: Does rejection’s sting motivate subsequent social reconnection?

David S. Chester, C. Nathan DeWall, Richard S. Pond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Physical pain motivates the healing of somatic injuries, yet it remains unknown whether social pain serves a similarly reparative function toward social injuries. Given the substantial overlap between physical and social pain, we predicted that social pain would mediate the effect of rejection on greater motivation for social reconnection and affiliative behavior toward rejecters. In Study 1, the effect of rejection on an increased need to belong was mediated by reports of more intense social pain. In Study 2, three neural signatures of social pain (i.e., activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, left and right anterior insula during social rejection), each predicted greater behavioral proximity to rejecters. Our findings reify the overlap between social and physical pain. Furthermore, these results are some of the first to demonstrate the reparative nature of social pain and lend insight into how this process may be harnessed to promote postrejection reconnection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-550
Number of pages10
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are sincerely grateful to Naomi Eisenberger for her assistance with earlier iterations of this manuscript, for providing Study 2’s Cyberball task, and guidance throughout this project. This experiment was funded by grants to the second author from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Grant number: DA005312) and the National Science Foundation (Grant number: BCS1104118).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Psychonomic Society, Inc.


  • Affiliation
  • Reconnection
  • Social pain
  • Social rejection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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