Social Exclusion and Poor Decision Making

by F.

Science Direct summarizes a new paper in Social Neuroscience:

Researchers have known for a long time that there is a link between social exclusion and the failure of self-control. For instance, people who are rejected in social situations often respond by abusing alcohol, expressing aggression or performing poorly at school or work. (Bridget Jones chooses “vodka and Chaka Khan”)…

In new research, reported in the current online issue of the journal Social Neuroscience, researchers from the University of Georgia and San Diego State University report for the first time that social exclusion actually causes changes in a person’s brain function and can lead to poor decision-making and a diminished learning ability….

The new study…is the first to use MEG to show that there are actual changes inside the brain when test subjects are manipulated to feel socially excluded. MEG is an imaging technique that measures the magnetic fields produced by electrical activity in the brain. It is most often used by physicians to localize brain tumors prior to surgery or to study the brain function of patients with epilepsy.

The MEG data revealed that those in the social-exclusion group had clear differences in activity in the brain’s occipital, parietal and prefrontal cortex regions. Those in the social-exclusion group also performed more poorly on the math questions. The inference is that social exclusion actually affects the brain’s neural circuitry.

So be nice to the outcasts.