Social cues establish expectations of rejection and affect the response to being rejected

James H. Wirth, Michael J. Bernstein, Eric D. Wesselmann, Angie S. LeRoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Violating one’s expectations of inclusion may influence the pain of rejection. This is supported by neurological evidence on expectation violation processing (Somerville, Heatherton, & Kelley, 2006). We asked: Can an expectation of a specific social outcome affect how it feels to be rejected or included? We tested the premise that expectations for the outcome of an interaction are derived from social information. Participants were either liked or disliked following a get-acquainted exercise (Study 1), or were given inclusionary versus exclusionary cues (Study 2) or no social information (Study 3) in an imagined scenario before being rejected or included. Rejection felt worse than inclusion; however, we found rejected individuals felt increasingly worse after receiving inclusionary cues than receiving exclusionary cues. Included individuals felt an increase in need satisfaction and reduced negative affect when they initially expected to be rejected compared to when they expected to be included.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-51
Number of pages20
JournalGroup Processes and Intergroup Relations
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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