BITTERSWEET REJECTION: THE EFFECTS OF REJECTION ON LEVELS OF EMPATHY AND ENVY IN INDIVIDUALS
The goal of this study was to examine the influence of social rejection on individuals’ reactions to others. Previous research discovered that rejected individuals become emotionally numb and are less likely to empathize with the plights of others. However, this research only observed empathic responses to others’ negative life events. How would rejected individuals’ emotional reaction change if they were exposed to another’s positive situation? How would this alter levels of envy and empathy in accepted individuals? In the current study, social exclusion was manipulated through a virtual ball-tossing game and participants were presented with a description of another individual’s positive or negative life event. After reading the life event participants reported levels of empathy and envy toward the other individual. The results of the study failed to replicate that rejected individuals are less empathetic toward the negative experiences of others. However, the results demonstrated that rejected participants were less empathetic than accepted individuals to the positive life event and slightly more empathetic than accepted participants toward the negative life event. This research suggests that the pain of rejection may leave people less open to hearing about positive events occurring in the lives of others and increase social sensitivity to negative events. The inability to empathize with a positive situation can hinder the ability to form secure emotional connections in relationships.