If we asked people to generate a list of aversive interpersonal behaviors, we might expect them to include various examples of verbal and physical abuse. After all, insults and punches are observable, measurable behaviors that we find aversive. This chapter, however, focuses on what many may overlook when constructing such a list, perhaps because it is not considered to be a behavior at all, but rather a “nonbehavior.” I refer to the pervasive and universal phenomenon of ostracism—the general process of exclusion and rejection. As we shall see, ostracism is not only an aversive interpersonal behavior, but also a response to aversive interpersonal behaviors. I review briefly experimental, observational, and case studies from anthropology, sociology, animal behavior, and psychology that pertain to ostracism. I then present a taxonomy and model of ostracism that I hope to be inclusive enough to cover its various forms, as well as specific enough to generate testable hypotheses. The general framework of the model is depicted in Figure 1. Next, I present a new experimental ostracism paradigm that we have employed in our laboratory to test a few hypotheses derived from this model. I also summarize ongoing qualitative interviews with long-term users and victims of the “silent treatment,” a form of ostracism commonly used in close dyadic relationships. Finally, directions for future research are discussed.


Physical Abuse Attachment Style Experimental Social Psychology Taxonomic Structure Silent Treatment 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kipling D. Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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