Date of Award

January 2011

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Medical Doctor (MD)

Department

Medicine

First Advisor

Michael J. Crowley

Subject Area(s)

Neurosciences

Abstract

We examined the role of friendship on the neural correlates of social exclusion in middle childhood with event-related potentials (ERPs) during a computer-simulated ball toss game, Cyberball. Experiencing fair play initially, children were then left out of the ball toss during an exclusion period. Forty children (ages 8-14) who played with a best friend and an unfamiliar peer were compared to forty-eight children (ages 8-14) who played with two unfamiliar peers. A slow wave (484-900ms post-stimulus) for both groups was evident in each of the conditions (favor, "not my turn," and rejection). Consistent with our previous middle childhood work, we found that the group playing with two unfamiliar peers showed a positive correlation between general self-reported ostracism distress and the amplitude of the rejection-related frontal slow wave. Specifically, a more negative slow wave predicted greater distress. Among the group playing with best friends, general ostracism distress was not associated with frontal slow wave activity. Importantly, a scale was designed for this study to account for differences in ostracism driven by a friend versus a stranger (Friendship Distress Questionnaire, FDQ). The rejection-related slow wave in the right frontal cortical region was associated with relationship stress on the FDQ. Higher friendship distress was associated with a more positive rejection-related slow wave. Findings suggest that constructs beyond those assessed by the Need Threat scale, such as trust and unfairness in a close relationship, could be relevant when studying the neural response to rejection, as well as illustrate the importance of considering ostracism's context (friend versus stranger).

Comments

This is an Open Access Thesis.

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