The 50 Shades of Social Rejection: The Role of Rejection-Sensitivity in Everyday Exclusion Experiences

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Miller, Alison
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Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The Symposium provides undergraduates from all academic disciplines with an opportunity to share their research with the university community and other guests through conference-style oral presentations. The Symposium represents part of a larger effort of Iowa State University to enhance, support, and celebrate undergraduate research activity.

Though coordinated by the University Honors Program, all undergraduate students are eligible and encouraged to participate in the Symposium. Undergraduates conducting research but not yet ready to present their work are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the presentation process and students not currently involved in research are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the broad range of undergraduate research activities that are taking place at ISU.

The first Symposium was held in April 2007. The 39 students who presented research and their mentors collectively represented all of ISU's Colleges: Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business, Design, Engineering, Human Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and the Graduate College. The event has grown to regularly include more than 100 students presenting on topics that span the broad range of disciplines studied at ISU.


Being rejected is rarely a pleasant experience. However, the reactions people have to being excluded are more consequential than the rejection itself. Critically, individuals differ in how they perceive and evaluate rejection circumstances. In fact, rejection sensitivity refers to an individual's disposition to "anxiously expect, readily perceive, and overreact to rejection" (Downey & Feldman, 1996). Rejection sensitive individuals have a heightened vulnerability to experiencing rejection and responding in a maladaptive way (including instances when there is no intended rejection). To what extent the rejection experiences these individuals have differ from those of others in terms of type of rejection (outright rejection vs. passive exclusion), source (friend vs. romantic partner), or specific emotional reactions (e.g., anger) still remains largely unknown. To this end, the present study will examine the nature of rejection experiences reported by highly rejection-sensitive individuals, identify distinctive qualities of these experiences, and test whether they are more likely to involve angry reactions. The findings will illuminate everyday experiences of rejection and will reveal the unique nature of social experiences of rejection-sensitive individuals.

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