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Dev Sci. 2014 Nov;17(6):1029-41. doi: 10.1111/desc.12191. Epub 2014 Jun 9.

Kin rejection: social signals, neural response and perceived distress during social exclusion.

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Yale Child Study Center, Yale University, USA.


Across species, kin bond together to promote survival. We sought to understand the dyadic effect of exclusion by kin (as opposed to non-kin strangers) on brain activity of the mother and her child and their subjective distress. To this end, we probed mother-child relationships with a computerized ball-toss game Cyberball. When excluded by one another, rather than by a stranger, both mothers and children exhibited a significantly pronounced frontal P2. Moreover, upon kin rejection versus stranger rejection, both mothers and children showed incremented left frontal positive slow waves for rejection events. Children reported more distress upon exclusion than their own mothers. Similar to past work, relatively augmented negative frontal slow wave activity predicted greater self-reported ostracism distress. This effect, generalized to the P2, was limited to mother- or child-rejection by kin, with comparable magnitude of effect across kin identity (mothers vs. children). For both mothers and children, the frontal P2 peak was significantly pronounced for kin rejection versus stranger rejection. Taken together, our results document the rapid categorization of social signals as kin relevant and the specificity of early and late neural markers for predicting felt ostracism.

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