Comfortably numb? Nonverbal reactions to social exclusion

J. Schaafsma, E.J. Krahmer, M. Postma, M.G.J. Swerts, M.J.H. Balsters, A.J.J.M. Vingerhoets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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This study examined people’s nonverbal reactions to being excluded during a social interaction. According to the ‘numbness hypothesis’, individuals who are being excluded may not display overt signs of distress but may lack in emotion and appear lethargic or numb instead. Nevertheless, the validity of this hypothesis has recently been questioned. In the present study, we hypothesized that the nonverbal behaviors of individuals who are being excluded are likely to be indicative of sadness and social withdrawal rather than numbness per se. For this purpose, participants were excluded or included during an interaction with two confederates. Automatic detection of facial expressions indicated that, although participants did display a more neutral face when they were excluded compared to when they were included, they also expressed more sadness and less joy. In addition, manual coding of nonverbal behaviors indicated that individuals who were excluded displayed fewer affiliative behaviors. These findings are not compatible with the numbness hypothesis. Individuals who are being excluded do display emotions (i.e., more sadness, less joy), be it that these emotions are typically associated with decreased energy levels and social disengagement.
Keywords: Social exclusion, Facial emotional expression, Numbness
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-39
JournalJournal of Nonverbal Behavior
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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