This study tested two possible ways that being relationally victimized may affect social cognition. Victims may develop a rejection attribution bias (i.e., experiencing social pain by engaging in cue distortion and attributing ambiguous social behavior to intentional rejection). Conversely, victims may develop a more generalized sensitivity to social pain, wherein they react negatively to a wider spectrum of social situations—even those in which they are obviously included and excluded). Participants (males = 55, females = 134) completed online surveys containing demographic, personality, and peer victimization measures. In a later session, participants came to the lab and were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: overt exclusion, ambiguous nonexclusion, and overt inclusion as part of an online ball-tossing game (Cyberball). The participants then completed self-report measures regarding their mood and experiences during the game. The results provided more support for the theoretical model that victims have a more generalized sensitivity to social pain; the rejection attribution theory was not supported.
Source: Journal of Social and Personal Relationships