Rejection elicits emotional reactions but neither causes immediate distress nor lowers self-esteem: a meta-analytic review of 192 studies on social exclusion

Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2009 Nov;13(4):269-309. doi: 10.1177/1088868309346065. Epub 2009 Sep 21.


Competing predictions about the effect of social exclusion were tested by meta-analyzing findings from studies of interpersonal rejection, ostracism, and similar procedures. Rejection appears to cause a significant shift toward a more negative emotional state. Typically, however, the result was an emotionally neutral state marked by low levels of both positive and negative affect. Acceptance caused a slight increase in positive mood and a moderate increase in self-esteem. Self-esteem among rejected persons was no different from neutral controls. These findings are discussed in terms of belongingness motivation, sociometer theory, affective numbing, and self-esteem defenses.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Psychological Theory
  • Rejection, Psychology*
  • Self Concept*