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Soc Neurosci. 2010;5(5-6):483-95. doi: 10.1080/17470919.2010.500169.

Social exclusion in middle childhood: rejection events, slow-wave neural activity, and ostracism distress.

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Yale Child Study Center, 230 South Frontage Road, New Haven, CT 06473, USA.


This study examined neural activity with event-related potentials (ERPs) in middle childhood during a computer-simulated ball-toss game, Cyberball. After experiencing fair play initially, children were ultimately excluded by the other players. We focused specifically on “not my turn” events within fair play and rejection events within social exclusion. Dense-array ERPs revealed that rejection events are perceived rapidly. Condition differences (“not my turn” vs. rejection) were evident in a posterior ERP peaking at 420 ms consistent, with a larger P3 effect for rejection events indicating that in middle childhood rejection events are differentiated in <500 ms. Condition differences were evident for slow-wave activity (500-900 ms) in the medial frontal cortical region and the posterior occipital-parietal region, with rejection events more negative frontally and more positive posteriorly. Distress from the rejection experience was associated with a more negative frontal slow wave and a larger late positive slow wave, but only for rejection events. Source modeling with Geosouce software suggested that slow-wave neural activity in cortical regions previously identified in functional imaging studies of ostracism, including subgenual cortex, ventral anterior cingulate cortex, and insula, was greater for rejection events vs. “not my turn” events.

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