The Link Between Ostracism and Aggression: Kipling D. Williams and Eric D. Wesselmann
WHY OSTRACISM HURTS THE INDIVIDUAL Social psychologists have theorized that humans are equipped with an evolved mechanism for detecting and responding to cues of ostracism (Kerr & Levine, 2008; Leary, Tambor, Terdal, & Downs, 1995; Spoor & Williams, 2007; see other evolutionary links to conict in Chapters 15 and 18 in this volume). These systems are adaptive because at one time in our evolutionary history being ostracized from a social group could harm an individual’s chances at survival-a form of “social death” (see Williams 2007; also Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Williams (2009) argues that these systems should be quick and crude, reacting at the slightest cue of ostracism, so that the individual can preemptively forestall or avoid permanent expulsion. Williams posits these cues set off the detection system, which elicits the experience of pain in the target individual (see Chen, Williams, Fitness, & Newton, 2008, for a discussion of social and physical pain; also MacDonald & Leary, 2005), and perceptions of threatened basic needs satisfaction.