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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2018 Jan 1;13(1):92-101. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsx139.

Social exclusion weakens storage capacity and attentional filtering ability in visual working memory.

Xu M1,2, Qiao L1,2, Qi S3, Li Z4, Diao L1,2, Fan L5, Zhang L1,2, Yang D1,2.

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School of Psychology, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, China.
Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality (Southwest University), Ministry of Education, Chongqing 400715, China.
MOE Key Laboratory of Modern Teaching Technology, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi'an 710119, China.
The School of Psychology and Cognitive Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China.
School of Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China.


Social exclusion has been found to impair visual working memory (WM), while the underlying neural processes are currently unclear. Using two experiments, we tested whether the poor WM performance caused by exclusion was due to reduced storage capacity, impaired attentional filtering ability or both. The Cyberball game was used to manipulate social exclusion. Seventy-four female participants performed WM tasks while event-related potentials were recorded. In Experiment 1, participants were made to remember the orientations of red rectangles while ignoring salient green rectangles. Results showed that exclusion impaired the ability to filter out irrelevant items from WM, as reflected by the similar contralateral delay activity (CDA) amplitudes for one-target-one-distractor condition and two-targets condition, as well as the similar CDA amplitudes for two-targets-two-distractors condition and four-targets condition in excluded individuals. In Experiment 2, participants were asked to remember 1-5 colored squares. Results showed that exclusion reduced storage capacity, as the CDA amplitudes reached asymptote at loads of two items for exclusion group and at loads of three items for inclusion group. Together, these two experiments provided complementary evidence that WM deficits caused by social exclusion were due to reduced storage capacity and impaired attentional filtering ability.


contralateral delay activity; social exclusion; working memory

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