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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Report on the post-summer-school seedcorn grant

04.10.2016, by Sibylle Classen in grant report

When 'We' or 'They' Exclude Others: Attributing and Evaluating Ostracism Observed in Ingroups and Outgroups
Sarah Noel Arpin, Laura Froehlich, Anthony Lantian, Selma Rudert, & Marleen Stelter

When “We” or “They” Exclude Others: Attributing and Evaluating Ostracism Observed in Ingroups and Outgroups
Sarah Noel Arpin1*, Laura Froehlich2*, Anthony Lantian3*, Selma Rudert4*, & Marleen Stelter5*

1 Gonzaga University, USA
2 University of Hagen, Germany
3 Univ. Grenoble Alpes, France
4 University of Basel, Switzerland
5 University of Hamburg, Germany
* All authors have contributed equally and are listed in alphabetical order

In our research, we focus on attributions and evaluations of observed in-group versus out-group ostracism. Ostracism is a common social occurrence with severe psychological and behavioral consequences for excluded individuals (e.g., Williams, 2009). Whereas many studies have focused on the perspective of ostracized individuals (e.g., Rudert & Greifeneder, 2016) , our research explores observers’ perceptions of the ostracism of another individual. Specifically, we investigate whether group membership affects observers’ causal attributions and evaluations of observed ostracism. Drawing on the black sheep hypothesis (Marques, Yzerbyt, & Leyens, 1988) and ultimate attribution error theory (Pettigrew, 1979), we hypothesize that when ostracism is observed in an outgroup, the sources (i.e., the ostracizing group members) will be evaluated more negatively than the target (i.e., the ostracized individual), as the exclusion is perceived as a violation of social norms. However, when ostracism is observed in the ingroup, we hypothesize that observers will evaluate the target more negatively than the sources of ostracism, as participants are motivated to maintain a positive ingroup identity. We further assume that this intergroup bias in evaluation will be mediated by ingroup-serving causal attributions. That is, ostracism in an outgroup will be attributed to the sources, whereas ostracism in the ingroup will be attributed to the target of ostracism. The present research extends current knowledge about observations of ostracism within social groups and may contribute to the understanding of related phenomena, such as factors influencing bystander intervention. The project has been submitted to the pre-registration journal CRSP where it is currently under revision.


  • Marques, J. M., Yzerbyt, V. Y., & Leyens, J.-P. (1988). The “Black Sheep Effect”: Extremity of judgments towards ingroup members as a function of group identification. European Journal of Social Psychology, 18, 1–16. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2420180102
  • Pettigrew, T. F. (1979). The ultimate attribution error: Extending Allport's cognitive analysis of prejudice. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 5(4), 461–476. doi:10.1177/014616727900500407
  • Rudert, S. C., & Greifeneder, R. (2016). When it's okay that I don't play: Social norms and the situated construal of social exclusion. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(7), 955-969. doi:10.1177/0146167216649606
  • Williams, K. D. (2009). Ostracism: A temporal need-threat model. In P. Z. Mark (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 41, pp. 275-314). San Diego, CA: Elsevier Academic Press.