Campus Tilburg University hoogleraren

PhD Defense E.O. Meral

Date: Time: 13:30 Location: Aula

Talking about belonging: Whether, why, and how people talk about social exclusion


In this dissertation, I discuss research focusing on the intersection of two core human qualities: belonging and communicating. More specifically, I investigate whether, why, and how people talk about social exclusion. Although social exclusion can take many forms (such as rejection, ostracism, and social isolation), at its core, it refers to being kept physically or emotionally separate from other people. I argue that talking about social exclusion is like a double-edged sword. On one hand, people can talk about being excluded and get emotional and social support from others. On the other hand, sharing such experiences with others may damage one's value in others' eyes. After all, when one is talking about social exclusion, they are talking about how the excluders did not value them in the first place. So, sharing this information with others may be damaging to individuals' reputation if others end up negatively evaluating them. The findings from numerous experiments and surveys showed that people indeed feel reluctant to share such experiences with other people, likely due to fear of negative evaluation. In fact, instead of talking about social exclusion with others, people seem to ignore it and try to minimize it. This paints a grim picture where individuals who are experiencing social exclusion may be suffering in silence instead of getting help from close others. This is worrying because the work of other scholars shows that experiencing social exclusion for a long time can be damaging to one's psychological health. What can we do to help people talk about social exclusion more? One idea is to raise awareness about social exclusion with the hope that people get excluded less and are more sensitive to each other's hurt feelings. In this dissertation, I discuss a program that was carried out in Dutch secondary schools that tried to raise awareness about social exclusion by making students experience what it feels like to be excluded. Students enjoyed the program and indicated that they gained new insights from it. I believe that another way to help could be to stimulate more research on talking about social exclusion. So, I worked on developing an experimental paradigm to study social exclusion and communication in tandem, which we made available for other researchers to use. My co-authors and I hope that the theoretical and practical insights gained from this dissertation will shed further light on the aversive experience of social exclusion.

  • Location: Cobbenhagen building, Aula
  • Supervisors: Prof.  I. van Beest, Prof. E. van Dijk
  • Co-supervisors: Dr. D. Ren, Dr. Y.M.J. Stráznický van Osch

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