When silence speaks louder than words

explorations into the intrapsychic and interpersonal consequences of social ostracism

Kristin L. Sommer, Kipling D. Williams, Natalie J. Ciarroco, Roy F. Baumeister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

109 Citations (Scopus)


Respondents wrote 2 stories, 1 about a time they were given the silent treatment and 1 about a time they used the silent treatment on another. Content analyses indicated that targets who were unable to attribute the ostracism to a specific cause suffered greater threats to belongingness and self-esteem than those who understood the reasons for their treatment. Targets who felt that others were oblivious to their presence reported stronger threats to belongingness, self-esteem, and meaningful existence and were more likely to affiliate with others than were targets who generated alternative reasons for their treatment. People high in self-esteem were more likely than those low in self-esteem to (a) use ostracism as a means of terminating the relationship and (b) terminate relationships with their ostracizing partners. People low in self-esteem, conversely, were more likely to ostracize others in defense against criticism or rejection, ostracize others in general, and report being ostracized by others. Finally, perspective differences indicated that sources portrayed the ostracism as a useful interpersonal tactic that ultimately led to conflict resolution, whereas targets emphasized feelings of withdrawal and resentment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-243
Number of pages19
JournalBasic and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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