UTRECHT, Netherlands, Oct. 13 (UPI) — Children who feel like outcasts are more likely than others to lash out in response to acute peer rejection, Dutch researchers say.
Study co-author Albert Reijntjes of Utrecht University and five other psychological scientists recruited 121 students ages 10-13 to take part in the study. The children were told they were playing an Internet game called “Survivor” — a fake contest for which they completed a personal profile that is to be uploaded to the Web site alongside their picture.
Eight judges provided feedback — some subjects received mostly positive feedback while some had mostly negative feedback, such as, “This person does not seem fun to hang out with.”
Each child had a chance to choose how much money each judge would get and to write comments about the judges.
Students who had been rejected were more likely to act aggressively toward judges — taking away money from them and/or writing comments like “this person is fat and mean.” They were even more aggressive if they’d scored high on a measure of alienation agreeing with statements like, “Hardly anyone I know is interested in how I really feel inside.”
“It (the study) was inspired by the fact that we had these school shootings and wondered what the most important feature of these kids could be,” Reijntjes says in a statement. “In discussing it with colleagues, the alienation concept came up; maybe there is something to alienation that increases aggression.”
The findings are published in Psychological Science.
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