People cope with social exclusion both by seeking reconnection with familiar individuals and by denigrating unfamiliar and disliked others. These reactions can be seen as adaptive responses in ancestral environments where ostracism exposed people to physical dangers and even death. To the extent that reactions to ostracism evolved to minimize exposure to danger, alleviating these foundational concerns with danger may lessen people's need to cope with exclusion. Three studies demonstrate how a novel physical invulnerability simulation lessens both positive and negative reactions to social exclusion. Study 1 found that simulating physical invulnerability lessened exclusion-triggered negative attitudes toward stigmatized groups, and demonstrated that perceived invulnerability to injury (vs. imperviousness to pain) accounted for this effect. Studies 2 and 3 focused on another facet of social bias by revealing that simulating physical invulnerability lessened rejected participants' desires for social connection.
Published in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2013