Ostracized Children Use Mimic Behaviors to Fit In, Study Finds

The pain of ostracism forces children to mimic group behaviors as means of seeking for way to be re-included, according to psychologists at The University of Texas, Austin.

Ostracized children facing the mental torments of this attitude modeling period, use high-fidelity imitation to re-affiliate with those groups they feel they belong, as study says they are sensitive to the pain even as from the age of 5.

Ostracism causes real pain, because our basic need for belonging, self-esteem, control, and recognition is thwarted – said Kipling D. Williams, a Purdue professor of psychological sciences.

Isn’t only present in adult, but an ostracized child also detects he’s being excluded from a group, thereby tends to use any means available, such as mimicking members behaviors just to be re-integrated into the group.

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Why Ostracism Hurts

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“Humans have an evolutionary prepared ostracism-detection system,” said Rachel Watson-Jones, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin, the lead author of the study.

“When kids feel left out, they copy the behavior of others around them in order to appear more like them,” said Rachel. “Whether it’s the way they dress, play, eat or activities they participate in, a child will imitate the behavior of others to appear as though they are part of that group.”

In a research of 176 children playing cyberball game, ages 5 and 6 years old. The children were studied under four conditions i.e. those ostracized from the in-group and those included, and those ostracized from the out-group and those included. “Ostracized” children were excluded from the two-minute game.

Researchers then assessed facial, postural and verbal displays of those ostracized for anxiety and frustration; noting more anxiety among those ostracized by the in-group than those of the out-group.

By the end of the game, children were made to watch either an in-group or out-group member as they perform a pattern intentional hand and object movements to imitate a group convention. Researchers discovered that Children who had been excluded by the in-group imitated the actions with higher fidelity than children who had been included. While children ostracized or included by the out-group did not.

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“The psychological experience of being ostracized by in-group members is aversive. Even young children are highly motivated to engage in behaviors such as group rituals to re-affiliate with other group members,” said associate professor of psychology Cristine Legare, a co-author of the study. “Research demonstrates that the behavioral response to being ostracized emerges early in development.”

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