Interpersonal Rejection

Interpersonal Rejection

Interpersonal Rejection

Interpersonal Rejection

Synopsis

Interpersonal rejection ranks among the most potent and distressing events that people experience. Romantic rejection, ostracism, stigmatization, job termination, and other kinds of rejections have the power to compromise the quality of people's lives. As a result, people are highly motivated to avoid social rejection, and, indeed, much of human behavior appears to be desinged to avoid such experiences. Yet, despite the widespread effects of real, anticipated, and even imagined rejections, psychologists have devoted only passing attention to the topic, and the research on rejection has been scattered throughout a number of psychological subspecialties (e.g., social, clinical, developmental, personality). In the past few years, however, we have seen a surge of interest in the effects of interpersonal rejection on behavior and emotion. The goal of this book is to pull together contributions of several writers whose work is on the cutting edge of rejection research, providing a readable overview of recent advances in the area. In doing so, it not only provides a look at the current state of the area but helps to establish the topic of rejection as an identifiable area for future research. Topics covered in the book include: ostracism, unrequited love, betrayal, stigmatization, rejection sensitivity, rejection and self-esteem, peer rejection in childhood, emotional responses to rejection, and personality moderators of reactions to rejection.

Excerpt

Imagine for a moment that an extraterrestrial psychologist visited Earth to study the social behavior of the human beings who live here. Before studying us directly, the alien researcher would undoubtedly read the existing literature on human behavior, looking for information about why human beings behave as they do. Reading the research literature, our visitor would quickly learn much about the motives that underlie and guide human behavior—motives involving, for example, control, power, self-esteem, autonomy, self-consistency, and so on. However, once the extraterrestrial set out to observe and study us directly, it would still be unprepared to understand what it saw.

Based on what it read in the literature, the visitor might be very surprised about certain aspects of people's social relationships, including the sheer amount of time that people spend relating to one another, seeking other people's attention, vying for their approval, and trying to be liked and accepted. It would observe that humans do not interact with an endless stream of different individuals but rather move in and out of interactions with people with whom they already have ongoing relationships. the alien would also see that we have many different kinds of relationships—with mates, offspring, other family members, close friends, casual friends, authority figures, subordinates, group members, co-workers, team members, and so on—but would observe that, in all of them, people typically behave in ways that maintain those relationships (even unsatisfying relationships). in fact, people would be observed doing things to avoid being rejected from groups and relationships, things sometimes not in the best interests of themselves or others. Furthermore, assuming that it could read our minds (as an alien undoubtedly could), our friend might see that Earthlings often worry about being rejected and suffer distress when other people reject them.

Returning to its home planet, the alien might wonder why human psychologists seemingly have not recognized that human beings have a pervasive need to be accepted and valued by other people and an equally pervasive aversion to being rejected by other members of their species. (For example, few textbooks in social psychology give any indication that people are concerned about being accepted.) To be sure, theorists have discussed the . . .

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