Being purposely ignored hurts — and so does purposely ignoring someone, new research suggests.
“Our results highlight that it goes against the grain of people’s psychological needs to exclude others,” study researcher Richard Ryan, of the University of Rochester, said in a statement.
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, involved having study participants play a computer game called Cyberball, in which “players” throw a ball to one another.
For the first part of the experiment, researchers led the study participants to believe that the other two “players” in the game were actual people who were also playing the game, when really it was just the computer. Some participants were instructed not to throw the ball to one of the players; others were instructed to throw the ball equally to both of the other players; others were not given any restrictions or requirements for who to throw the ball to.
Researchers found that those who were instructed not to throw a ball to a certain player had a worse mood after the experiment, compared to the other two groups.
Then, the researchers conducted a similar experiment with the computer game, to measure the moods of people who were not the ostracizerss, but the ostracized — meaning they were the ones who were being ignored and not being passed the ball. Researchers found that their foul moods were comparable with those who were instructed in the first part of the experiment to not pass the ball to certain players.
Past research has highlighted the mental health effects of being ignored. For example, a study published last year in the same journal shows that feeling ignored — even if it’s by a stranger — spurs feelings of disconnectedness. And another study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, shows that even being excluded online, like on Facebook, can make people feel just as bad as if it had happened in real life.