Does rejection hurt? An fMRI study of social exclusion

Naomi I. Eisenberger, Matthew D. Lieberman, Kipling D. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2098 Citations (Scopus)


A neuroimaging study examined the neural correlates of social exclusion and tested the hypothesis that the brain bases of social pain are similar to those of physical pain. Participants were scanned while playing a virtual ball-tossing game in which they were ultimately excluded. Paralleling results from physical pain studies, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) was more active during exclusion than during inclusion and correlated positively with self-reported distress. Right ventral prefrontal cortex (RVPFC) was active during exclusion and correlated negatively with self-reported distress. ACC changes mediated the RVPFC-distress correlation, suggesting that RVPFC regulates the distress of social exclusion by disrupting ACC activity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-292
Number of pages3
Issue number5643
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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