The impact of social exclusion on anticipatory attentional processing

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6 Scopus citations


The importance of understanding how we anticipate and prepare for social rejection is underscored by the mental and physical toll of continual social vigilance. In this study, we investigate the impact of social rejection on anticipatory attentional processes using the well-known Cyberball task, a paradigm in which participants engage in a game of catch with virtual avatars who after an initial period of fair-play (inclusion condition) then exclude the participant from the game (exclusion condition). The degree of anticipatory attention allocated by subjects towards the avatars was assessed by measuring P3b responses towards the avatars’ preparatory actions (i.e. the phase preceding their exclusionary actions) using high density EEG. The results of the study show that relative to the inclusion, participants exhibit elevated levels of anticipatory attentional allocation towards the avatars during the exclusion block. This shift was however significantly moderated by participants’ self-reported cognitive regulation tendencies. Participants with higher levels of self-reported cognitive reappraisal tendencies showed larger anticipatory P3b increases from the inclusion to exclusion block relative to participants with reduced levels of reappraisal tendencies. These results highlight the impact of social exclusion on anticipatory neural processing and the moderating role of cognitive reappraisal on these effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-57
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • Cyberball
  • Electroencephalography
  • Event-related potential
  • P300
  • Social exclusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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