Brain Mechanisms to Regulate Negative Reactions to Social Exclusion

  • David Chester
  • Paolo Riva


Exclusion is a social phenomenon that reliably causes negative consequences for the excluded. From aggression to self-control failure, exclusion yields several maladaptive dividends. However, neuroscience research has peered inside the mechanics of exclusion’s effects, yielding many valuable insights. The chief contribution of the neuroscience of exclusion has been to uncover that social exclusion is truly painful. Social pain’s automatic components in the brainstem, anterior cingulate and insular cortices, are counterbalanced by the controlled, regulatory function of the prefrontal cortex. In this chapter, we draw from literatures on emotion regulation, self-affirmation, and mindfulness to suggest ways in which both automatic and controlled neural responses to social exclusion can be altered to promote functional responses. Such regulatory modifications can promote affiliative over aggressive behavioral responses, prevent self-regulatory failure, and reduce stress and inflammatory responses in the body’s periphery. Given the substantial impact of individual differences on neural responses to exclusionary threats, there exist ways in which these regulatory strategies can be tailored to individual personality profiles. We hope to detail how the neuroscience of exclusion has matured and is now poised to transition from descriptive research to prescriptive interventions.


Social brain Social exclusion Rejection Ostracism Social pain Automatic responses Controlled responses Emotion regulation Affiliative responses Aggressive responses 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  2. 2.University of Milano-BicoccaMilanItaly

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