If individuals or groups are deliberately excluded by other people, this is known as ostracism. The term comes from ancient Greek and is used in psychology. It is translated as ostracism.
Origin of the term „ostracism“
In ancient Athens, it was common to keep too powerful citizens away from political decisions or to remove them from the political life of the city by convening the Court of Shards. The word derives from ostracon (shard of clay), which served as a ballot. Those who received a certain number of shards were banished and henceforth had no vote.
Exclusion of others takes place in every society, in every population and age group. Even among primitive peoples, the behavior can be found. Ostracism usually occurs in groups with a strong sense of community and high attachment. The psychological phenomenon serves to strengthen the togetherness of the group, deter enemies, and increase one’s own efficiency.
Ostracism: psychological consequences of exclusion
Those who experience ostracism are in a psychologically difficult state and in danger of becoming lonely. Ostracism is a severe form of rejection and, unlike a verbal rejection or a physical altercation, can have serious psychological consequences. This is because the person concerned does not know the reason for which he has been deprived of attention. So he has to deal with the ambiguity. Social rejection is a risk of illness of considerable magnitude and has so far received little attention in medicine. People with weak attachment patterns are particularly affected. They are extremely sensitive to rejection.
How does ostracism take place
Social ostracism also happens in various ways: for example, others avoid eye contact, do not answer questions, or simply treat the person like air. The experience weakens self-esteem.
A person’s mental health depends largely on whether he or she is perceived by others in his or her social group and how he or she communicates with them. As soon as the maladjusted person is excluded from the group, the others feel a stronger sense of belonging again and can act more efficiently, The excluded person, however, is deprived of a fundamental human need. This is because people’s mental health is highly dependent on belonging to a particular group.
Ostracism also affects emotional capacities. The consequences can be as bad as mental torture, leaving the person in great defenselessness. The Makes him an easy victim for enemies.
Can ostracism be measured?
A method of measurement was developed by the American psychologist Kippling D. Williams after his own experience of exclusion. The idea behind it is called Cyberball.
During a visit to the park, he was hit in the back by a Frisbee disc and played it back to the men who had thrown it. They played the Frisbee disc back to him, making Williams a teammate. However, after a short time, they only played among themselves and paid no attention to him. The negative experience of being left out made Williams very depressed and angry at the same time. As a result, Williams programmed the game Cyberball (2000) to learn more about the phenomenon of exclusion.
In the game Cyberball, a subject is made to believe by means of experiment to examine mental imagination in relation to performance (in completing a task).
The subject was supposed to play ball as realistically as possible with two other people on the Internet. However, the opponents were not real people, but were controlled by the computer. Up to the halfway point, the game went off without a hitch. But then exactly the same thing happened that Williams had experienced during his Frisbee experience in the park:
The subject was no longer thrown a ball and was treated as if it didn’t exist. After a few minutes, Williams interrupted the game and asked the subject how she felt. The response was identical to his: she felt sad and angry at the same time. Williams defined the reaction of anger and sadness as a kind of early warning system that signals the subject that he is in the greatest danger.
The feelings set in as soon as the situation is recognized. Thus, it is still possible for the person to react, for example, by changing his or her behavior and possibly joining another group. The early warning system thus has the function of reflecting the situation. In this way, the excluded person can also recognize whether it is possibly just a misunderstanding.
What makes ostracism so dangerous?
An essential characteristic of ostracism is the lack of explanation for the behavior. As a result, there is a danger that the excluded person attributes behavior to himself that does not apply to him at all. This considerably weakens his self-esteem. He even finds himself in a situation of loss of control. Since he is ignored, he cannot defend himself against the exclusionary persons. He feels as if he is invisible. The whole existence of the affected person may be threatened. He shows negative emotions such as fear and sadness, but the positive affects decrease significantly.
Being excluded changes people
Everyone has a need for control and wants to live a meaningful life that is meaningful to others. To regain control, affected people not infrequently react aggressively and antisocially. Aggression is particularly pronounced in people who have endured ostritcism for a very long time. As their basic needs are threatened, they become increasingly desperate and helpless, showing great anxiety and poor performance. At the end of this phase, they experience complete resignation.