"The face of ostracism": The impact of the social categorization on the thermal facial responses of the target and the observer

Daniele Paolini, Francesca R. Alparone, Daniela Cardone, I. van Beest, Arcangelo Merla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Ostracism has been shown to elicit pain in both the target and the observers. Two experiments investigated the autonomic thermal signature associated with an ostracism experience and assessed whether and how social categorization impacts the autonomic arousal of both the target and the observer. Autonomic response was assessed using thermal infrared imaging, recording facial temperature variation during an online game of ball toss (i.e., Cyberball). Social categorization was manipulated using a minimal group paradigm. The results show a more intense autonomic response during ostracism (vs. inclusion), marked by an increase in facial temperature in the nose and the perioral area. This autonomic response is stronger when individuals are ostracized by ingroup (vs. outgroup) members. Similar pattern of temperature variations emerge when individuals observe an ostracism episode involving ingroup members. Our findings advance the understanding of psycho-physiological mechanisms underlying the ostracism experience and emphasize the impact of social categorization in such mechanisms.
Keywords: Ostracism, Social categorization, Thermal infrared imaging
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-73
JournalActa Psychologica
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Ostracism
  • Social categorization
  • Thermal infrared imaging

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