A new way out of the cycle of rejection

June 30, 2017

Have you ever hosted a party, but as the day approaches, your closest friends say they won't be able to attend? Or maybe you sent a friend request to someone on Facebook who never responded, or weren't invited to an event that most of your friends are attending.

People in these situations usually feel socially excluded, which often leads to antisocial and self-defeating responses. What would it take to persuade people to counteract this spiral toward isolation and instead re-engage in healthy relationships?

Jayati Sinha, PhD, a professor of marketing at Florida International University, suspected that messages that appeal to emotion—rather than rationality—would be more successful in motivating people in these situations to pursue social activities again.

"When people feel excluded, they keep thinking about that negative experience, and this depletes mental resources," Sinha says. "This makes it harder to process rational details, so an emotional message is more appealing."

To test this hypothesis, Sinha's team asked participants in one group to write about details of an experience when they felt excluded, and another group to write about an event when they felt included. The third group wrote about a neutral event (the experience of waking up the previous day). Then they showed groups different types of blood donation advertisements. The emotional ad emphasized that was the gift of life, while the other ad emphasized the number of lives saved.

The group that had written about feeling socially excluded was much more likely to prefer the emotional ad, while the other groups preferred the rational ad.

To test whether the messages would translate into action, the researchers conducted another experiment in which the participants viewed different messages about recycling. The emotional ad stated that "The plastic bottles you recycle today will become a new carpet in the future," while the rational ad presented facts about the number of recycled bottled needed to make a carpet. The participants who were primed to feel socially excluded were much more likely to recycle the plastic juice bottles they received during the experiment if they had seen the emotional message, but the rational ad was more effective for the other groups.

These findings offer hope to groups that are at risk of feeling isolated, such as the elderly, disabled, widowed, divorced or living alone, Sinha says. Policy makers and businesses might have more success helping these groups participate in positive activities if messages focus on visual images and words that arouse emotions, rather than highlighting product benefits, deals and convincing arguments.

"People who feel excluded may be struggling to take care of themselves, so the goal is to communicate to them in ways that persuade them to make changes that improve their quality of life," Sinha says.

This study will appear in the October issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

Explore further: People prove adept at predicting emotional transitions

More information: Speaking to the Heart: Social Exclusion and Reliance on Feelings versus Reasons in Persuasion, www.journals.elsevier.com/jour … clusion-and-reliance

Related Stories

People prove adept at predicting emotional transitions

June 29, 2017
For most people, reading the emotions of those around you is second nature: Your spouse is grumpy. Your co-worker is anxious. Your child is happy.

Feeling left out can lead to risky financial decisions, research finds

August 1, 2013
People who feel isolated are more inclined to make risker financial decisions for bigger payoffs, according to new research presented at the American Psychological Association's 121st Annual Convention.

Better a 'no' than no answer at all

May 11, 2017
After experiencing social exclusion, a minimum of attention suffices to reduce individuals' negative emotions. Even rejection or unkind comments are better for well-being than being ignored by other people. This finding has ...

Recommended for you

Babies can learn that hard work pays off

September 21, 2017
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. A new study from MIT reveals that babies as young as 15 months can learn to follow this advice. The researchers found that babies who watched an adult struggle at two different ...

Study links brain inflammation to suicidal thinking in depression

September 21, 2017
Patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) have increased brain levels of a marker of microglial activation, a sign of inflammation, according to a new study in Biological Psychiatry by researchers at the University of ...

Oxytocin turns up the volume of your social environment

September 20, 2017
Before you shop for the "cuddle" hormone oxytocin to relieve stress and enhance your social life, read this: a new study from the University of California, Davis, suggests that sometimes, blocking the action of oxytocin in ...

Researchers develop new tool to assess individual's level of wisdom

September 20, 2017
Researchers at University of San Diego School of Medicine have developed a new tool called the San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE) to assess an individual's level of wisdom, based upon a conceptualization of wisdom as a trait ...

Alcohol use affects levels of cholesterol regulator through epigenetics

September 20, 2017
In an analysis of the epigenomes of people and mice, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the National Institutes of Health report that drinking alcohol may induce changes to a cholesterol-regulating gene.

Self-control may not diminish throughout the day

September 20, 2017
After a long day of work and carefully watching what you eat, you might expect your self-control to slip a little by kicking back and cracking open a bag of potato chips.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.