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How social exclusion distorts social network perceptions


Social Networks


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

O'Connor K M;Gladstone E

Publication Year



In two studies we investigate whether social exclusion—a well-studied, common and quite painful social experience-influences people's perceptions of novel social networks. In a first study, exclusion experiences led people to report that novel networks were more dense relative to those who had not been excluded. As predicted, this was true only for social networks; exclusion had no impact on perceptions when networks were described as geographical. In a follow-up experiment, participants watched a custom-created video, depicting avatars interacting in social scenes and they were asked to report the ties among the avatars in the video. Exclusion experiences led people to see network ties where none exist (i.e., false positives), though there was no effect for exclusion (versus inclusion) on reports of false negatives. Results indicate that common social experiences systematically shape network perceptions, leading people to seeing novel social networks as more densely connected than they are.


Social networks; Social cognition; Exclusion; Ostracism; Network cognition

Available on ECCH


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