Rejecting to be respected : maintaining perceived regard through rejection
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People report that they find it difficult and unpleasant to reject, so why do they do it? The devastating consequences of social rejection are well researched yet we know very little about why people reject in circumstances other than antisocial bullying. One possibility is that threat to one’s own perceived regard may actually promote the likelihood that one will reject others. To test this question, the present research examines (a) how perceived regard affects rejection (Experiments 1 and 2) and (b) two potential mediators of the connection between perceived regard and rejection (Experiment 3: discernment; Experiment 4: empathy). Experiment 1 manipulated perceived regard while participants made decisions about whether to reject or accept candidates hoping to join the participants’ group. People are more likely to reject when they experience the possibility of losing perceived regard, but not when they experience the possibility of gaining perceived regard. In Experiment 2, the concept of perceived regard is further broken down into two elements: group membership and respect, and findings show that threat to respect, not group membership, increased the tendency to reject others. Both Experiments 3 and 4 found null results for the potential mediators of discernment and empathy. Overall, the findings suggest that people engage in social rejection to prevent a loss of respect from their peers. The present research provides a starting point for considering motivations to socially reject. By better understanding sources of rejection, research can create more effective social rejection interventions. If people are more likely to reject others when they are concerned about their respect, one way to decrease the negative side effects of social rejection is to intervene with the source rather than the target.