Personality Psychology (740)






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04/22/2019

Hales et al., (2016)

Filed under: Uncategorized — drcb @ 4:34 pm
26 Comments to “Hales et al., (2016)”
  1. Sophie Schiff says:

    One of the concerns I had about this paper was the age of the population. I think how individuals value agreeableness changes with development. As we know from class, agreeableness increased throughout the lifespan. But I also think that as we mature, we start to value agreeableness more. Additionally, in my opinion, as we age we have a better understanding of how our actions affect others, and although not universal, we try to minimize the negative effect we have on others. This would lead me to believe that older populations would be less likely to ostracize others. Of course, this varies based on the individual, but since agreeableness/cooperativeness increases with age, I would imagine the inclination to ostracize others decreases. The authors mention in the introduction that disagreeable schoolchildren were more likely to be bullied than agreeable schoolchildren who demonstrate similar behaviors. Although the social dynamics of college students are very different than schoolchildren, I think that it makes sense that the relationship between agreeableness and ostracism is similar in these two groups. However, I would think that in older populations, perhaps ostracism is less of a go-to reaction to disagreeable individuals. It would be interesting to extend this research to different developmental stages.

    The other (related) concern that I had about this paper was the explicit way the authors measured intentions to ostracize. Consciously deciding to ostracize someone seems very strange to me. The authors note in the limitations section that the fact that asking people how they would respond as opposed to actually observing their behavior may have inflated their results. I agree with this limitation and think that behavioral measures of ostracism would get at more sub-conscious motivations to ostracize. I was surprised that anyone would consciously admit that they would ostracize someone. In study 1, the authors report that only few people explicitly reported that they would ostracize, but even in studies 2-4, people reporting that they would ignore Mason, which seems to have a slightly less negative connotation than “ostracize,” seemed surprising to me.

    • Shira Russell-Giller says:

      Sophie, I totally am with you on the strange methodology of the authors to manipulate feelings of ostracism, especially without doing a mental health screening. Even though Cyberball is seemingly a harmless 2-minute game, someone who is already suffering from feelings of isolation and loneliness might still be triggered by the task. The authors don’t mention if the participants were debriefed after the completion of the task, but I would very much like to know if they were. Most importantly, I think any future study that is manipulating negative emotions should require some sort of mental health screening.

    • Sergiu Barcaci says:

      Hi Sophie! I do agree that as we mature we start to value agreeablness more, but as I was thinking about it, we might also be more prone to ostracizing disagreeables. Besides, it’s adults that decide to lock people away, exile them, etc. It would definitely be interesting to look at ostracism through the lens of different developmental stages- what if some people always exhibit inclinations to ostracize? Maybe some people want to become police officers due to them seeing it as a way of putting away (ostracizing) disagreeables.

    • Gregory Rosen says:

      Hi Sophie, I’m glad you highlighted the limitation regarding intention to ostracize. Do you think affective forecasting error could add to that limitation? Also, do you think older people would be less likely to distrust a disagreeable person, i.e., distinguish between niceness and trustworthiness, given that they might have more experience showing that a cold, harsh person can be competent, fair, and trustworthy?

    • Sunghee Kim says:

      Hello, Sophie. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about the article. I also had a similar concern as you did about the paper. I felt that the sample mean ages were so limited (each study sample mean was in between of 19~20) and all from the introductory psychology students. I felt like they were a quiet young to have agreeableness and yes, you mentioned that also in your thought. I even retrospect my early 20s’, I was not very agreeable. Now I am a bit older, I know myself more mature and able to accept other thoughts unlike when I was 19 or 20. I just think these psychology students are very young to understand and feel what agreeableness is.

    • Minjung Park says:

      Hi, Sophie. First of all, thank you for sharing your opinion about the limitations of the method the authors used. While I was reading this article, I thought the same as you that there were some problems in the methodology. As Shira also mentioned, the most thing they have to deal with is that I think if the authors check mental health before the experiment, then they have more narrow and interesting results than the result that they have.

    • drcb says:

      Good point about developmental processes. There was a low base rate of ostracism in this study, and it could go even lower as one ages. However, there’s also Carstensen’s socioemotional selectivity theory (e.g., Carstensen et al, 1999), which is about how people cull their social networks in late life to retain the closest, most rewarding relationships and let go of the less rewarding acquaintances. If “culling” is like “ostracizing” then it could actually go the other way.

  2. Sergiu Barcaci says:

    Upon first reading this article, I instantly thought about the potential ethical issues with performing a study on ostracism. Hales et al. mention it themselves that chronic ostracism is a very negative life event and can have the potential for lasting personality change- so how do you ethically run a study where you have to willingly expose people to that? It’s difficult to begin with and they mention in their limitations that using vignettes instead of actual personable instances could have skewed the data. Although, subjects generally choosing not to ostracize (and mostly ostracizing the disagreeables) even when not physically present in that scenario with a live person does led some insight into just how “psychologically uncomfortable” that act of ostracizing another person can be.
    Also, in regard to Study 5, the CyberBall study, not measuring baseline agreeableness is a huge limitation when you’re measuring how ostracization effects agreeableness/leads to disagreeableness. Yes, you found that those that were ostracized were generally more disagreeable, but what if those people were disagreeable to begin with- that definitely needed to be taken into account.
    I do like that Study 4 builds upon the ambiguity of Study 3 while also bringing to attention the differences between males and females in ostracism- them mentioning females using social inclusion as a reward for agreeable and ostracism as a punishment for disagreeable instantly made me think of pretty much every high school movie out there and how that’s portrayed. They also do bring up the very valid point of ostracization can be seriously social taxing when you could potentially ostracize someone beneficial to society simply for being disagreeable. This should be saved for serious social violations (which I guess is what prison is) but it did also remind of how the church would excommunicate people way back when.

    • Sara Babad says:

      Hi Sergiu! Your post made me think of a comment a friend recently made. She said she would rather have a doctor who is rude because she assumes that he therefore must be good at what he does. Conversely, she assumes that doctors who are kind and nice are not necessarily good at what they do. I wonder if people assume that low agreeableness is associated with increased efficacy (at their job, etc). I think of people who are driven and work in high-pressure environments. “The nice guy finishes last” is an age-old phrase that is in line with the thought my friend expressed. So, to your point, I wonder if society having less tolerance for low agreeableness means inadvertently ostracizing those who are highly effective at what they do.

  3. Shanna Razak says:

    When reading this article my thought constantly wandered back to a high school setting and its hierarchy of popularity with the attending students. In other words what factors characterize a student as part of the “in crowd” and what makes a student an “outcast”. The article looked at the correlation between ostracism and disagreeableness. Personally, I believe that these two concepts are correlated. However, agreeableness may not be the only factor that determines whether or not someone is ostracized from a social group.
    A person who is agreeable is defined is warm and very friendly. When looking at the social groups formed in a high school,it is stereo-typically shown that the most popular person of the school as disagreeable. They are often seen as narcissistic and cold-hearted, Often times they may bully other students in order to be seen as intimidating as possible, This often gives them the power to ostracize other students.
    When moving down the hierarchy of popularity we see that the students may be much more agreeable to compared to the most popular student in school. They are much more friendly and welcoming of other students. Those who are at the bottom of the hierarchy are ostracized. However, they aren’t ostracized because they are disagreeable but in that, they go against the alpha of the social group.
    However with this in mind, I also looked at agreeableness in another light. One negative side to agreeableness is that those who are high on this trait may be a pushover. In other words, they may have trouble sticking up for themselves because they want to satisfy their social group. In order to make their social group happy they often have to agree or follow along with any beliefs that the group may have. In the high school scenario, this action may be idolizing the leader of the pack. This makes them agreeable to the group. Those who refuse to do this are often cast out of the group. In this case, the person who goes against the group is seen as disagreeable, leading to them being ostracized.

    • victoria fairchild says:

      Hi Shana,
      I also thought a lot about school dynamics while reading this paper. I do think that the point that was made, that being ostracized may lead to more negative/disagreeable feelings and thus a vicious cycle of continuously being ostracized was interesting and valid. But again, I think that there are a lot of dynamics in place in terms of ostracism in a school environment. Of course, being unhappy/isolated at school might lead you to be more globally unhappy or disagreeable in other places, but I do wonder if there is a difference between those who can remain agreeable outside of the ostracized environment. Are they more agreeable people in general, regardless of being ostracized in one place? Are they more able to compartmentalize one part of their lives in which they are not accepted? Do they behave differently if they have the opportunity to join a different in-group in other places (in terms of school- sports teams or friendships outside of school etc…). I think that exploring the differences in a school setting could be very interesting.

    • Sophie Schiff says:

      Hi Shanna – I completely agree that it is typically the case that the most popular person is more disagreeable than those who become ostracized, at least in high school settings. I think that this changes dramatically over the course of the lifespan though. Personally, in high school the popular classmates were the more disagreeable, but in college the pattern changed and the disagreeable people were pushed to the fringes. I think as you are forced into a more collaborative environment, such as the work force, agreeableness becomes more desirable. I also think that the concept of “popularity” changes. I think that when you are young, popularity may be associated with how much others fear you, but as you get older, popularity is more about how much others enjoy being around you and working with you.

      • Shanna Razak says:

        I can definitely see where you are coming from. Cliques and social groups exist in many settings. From a work-setting in which we are expected to be collaborative, agreeableness is a preferable trait. Employees who are seen as unfriendly are often avoided or at the most greeted with a one-word “Hello”. This is the opposite of a social interaction that may occur with an agreeable employee in which greetings will go beyond a simple “Hello”

  4. victoria fairchild says:

    I enjoyed reading this paper because I think the concept of ostracism and how it might significantly enhance certain undesirable personality characteristics such as antisocial behaviors and disagreeableness is very interesting. For me, the background discussion on how we use ostracism socially as a punitive tool was very interesting, especially when we consider different relationships/scenarios such as incarceration and recidivism, or even far less severe scenarios such as being the “black sheep” of a family. I do wonder if the disagreeableness that results as a consequence of being ostracized is then expressed only to the group that has ostracized you, or if the consequential disagreeable/antisocial behavior is globally expressed to others. I also wonder whether having a more disagreeable reaction is attenuated by the opportunity to join other in-groups following ostracism from one specific group.

    I also had concerns about the age of the population used, not just because of a lack of diversity, but because we may deal with things differently throughout our lifetime. In study 1, participants were given the opportunity to confront or isolate the individual. The capability of a 20 year old to have an adult conversation about why someone chose not to do someone else a favor (confrontation) likely looks very different than that of a 40 year old. Those who chose not to say anything and ignore Mason may also do so because they have no intention of getting involved in a situation that “has nothing to do with them”.
    In short, I also had some concerns about the way that ostracism was operationalized within this study, as I feel that ignoring Mason in a social setting is inherently different from choosing not to invite Mason in the first place (more severe ostracism). I feel that the severity of ostracism and the scenarios that were chosen could’ve been more clearly defined.

    That being said, I think that addressing ostracism, especially chronic ostracism, could be extremely important clinically, particularly in a school settings where bullying is prevalent and children’s personalities are developing. Being able to understand the mechanics of ostracism, perhaps who is at the most risk of being ostracized and who is at the most risk of having an adverse personality change because of it could be especially useful in creating more inclusive school environments and mitigating bullying, aggression, depression and anxiety.

    • Crystal Quinn says:

      Victoria, I agree that it is interesting how ostracism might decrease undesirable personality traits! You bring up a good point about considering whether disagreeableness that results as a consequence of being ostracized is expressed only to the group that has done the ostracizing, or to others. I would think some ostracized individuals might become more untrusting of other people in general, while some might really value friendships that develop having been ostracized in the past. I also agree that the decision to ostracize would likely change as one becomes older (likely decreasing as age increases). I like your thought about using this information to identify students at risk for ostracism in schools! That would be very helpful and practical. Perhaps education about this could be helpful to all students, especially in middle school!

    • Bengi says:

      Thank you for your comment, Victoria. I agree that the operationalization of ostracism in this study needed more clear definition as well as a more substantial link to the theory & literature. I appreciate your emphasis on the difference between ignoring someone who is already there and keeping away from someone to prevent an interaction in the first place and I also think it is also about asking more specific questions: Do people even think consciously about how they react to some people or their behavior as they engage in ostracism? What makes people deem others as deserving of ostracism if we isolate the person’s disagreeableness? That part seems to be more interesting to me, which you underline with your point on the possible perspectives of people at different ages and with different approaches to the situation.

    • Ulzhan Yeshengazina says:

      Hi Victoria,

      Thank you for your comments. Despite given criticism for this paper by others, I think it is important to highlight how we can use the provided information. I liked the point you made about the need for understanding the mechanisms of the ostracism and how this could be used to prevent undesirable behavior by educating children about the consequences of ostracising someone from the group.

      I also would like to note that I agree with Sophie’s comment on the age of the participants. We are more likely to appreciate agreeableness in people and become more agreeable over time. It would be interesting to see how this study would play out in the more older population.

    • Katherine Chang says:

      Victoria, I thought your comment about ostracism decreasing undesirable personality traits was really interesting. Like what are the reactive forces in play – could there be confounding variables. I wonder if mindset, like me talked about last week, has any play into this. Or the compassion/things the people being ostracized tell themselves (is there something wrong with me, is there something wrong with them etc). Adam Grant had a really interesting podcast on rejection and how to bounce back. I wonder if a person’s mindset or reaction makes them more resilient to ostracism.

  5. Bengi says:

    The article strikes me with the great deal of emphasis it puts on the target of ostracism rather than on the person who is applying ostracism. It came as a surprise to me that in the review of the causes for ostracism they mention the “certain personality characteristics that render some people especially likely targets” and but the application of ostracism is attributed either to a social strategy by individuals or groups of people, rather than to particular personality characteristics, which I found to be an important mismatch at a theoretical level. Individualizing the phenomenon of ostracism and explaining it with someone’s disagreeableness is a conclusion that needs to be approached with caution due to ethical implications regarding the thin line between deeming as disagreeable and discriminating against. This also comes with the question of possible confounds that might be existing that relates to one’s social background and everyday circumstances that might enhance disagreeableness that might go unnoticed if we only focus on disagreeableness in a research about ostracism. In relation to methods, Study 2 and Study 3 might fall short of capturing people’s behavior towards a target when faced with actual disagreeable or agreeable people since these people are shown only vignettes and their intentions are measured. This is a limitation that was also recognized by the authors but it raises the deeper confusion about thinking about the way in which conceptualization of ostracism should also be clarified between the levels of thought and behavior, as well as socially embedded nature of it that cannot be captured without detailed demographic information of participants or of the subjects they are reacting to (whether in vignettes or in real life). Additionally, if one is using vignettes, I would be interested in reading different situations that the characters are involved in that include more detail and also would like to ask/get more open-ended answers from the participants as to why they intended to ostracize that character rather than making them choose from within given options that are only on whether they would ostracize or not.

    • Chen Tiferet-Dweck says:

      Hi Bengi,
      I agree with you that it is strange that the authors did not take into account the personality of the person who is applying the ostracism as well. I would suggest taking into account his/hers own agreeableness but also other dimensions like neuroticism. Perhaps a person that is high on neuroticism will perceive others as less agreeableness compares to someone that is low on neuroticism. Hence, I would expect that a participant that is high on neuroticism will have a lower bar for the exclusion of others.

  6. Scott Ewing says:

    Like most articles I’ve read in personality and social psychology, the researchers found a way to take concepts that are already well known, common sense, basic human phenomena and demonstrate them in a lab with lots of stats and references to other authors who did the same. It’s neat, but meh.

    Their analyses are thorough and impressive, but the questionnaires they designed were heavy on priming – another reason the results aren’t that surprising. Mason is cold and untrusting – do you think he is untrustworthy? I loved their ‘moderate’ description: “Mason tends to be neither warm nor cold, neither trusting nor untrusting, and neither caring nor uncaring”. Seems like an unusual way of describing someone.

    There were two parts of the article that I did find very interesting, though. The unexpected gender difference was one; females were slightly more willing to ostracize the ‘moderate’ Mason and more inclusive of the ‘agreeable’ Mason than males. Their theory for explaining it was odd, though. They suggest that females are more willing to reward agreeableness with inclusion. I’m curious if the class has any other theories for this, particularly from the males’ perspective: why might males behave similarly toward the ‘agreeable’ and the ‘moderate’ Mason?

    The second thing I found (very) interesting was mentioned in the discussion. Most of the articles and lectures we’ve followed so far have depicted traits such as Agreeableness as mostly static (except for the longitudinal studies, looking at slight shifts in averages), and what changes is situationally-specific behaviors. I really liked the idea of ‘density distributions’ – people’s traits can vary within a certain range on their quantifying scales. This suggests that in a particular situations, a very Disagreeable person and a very Agreeable person might actually present as equals, if the situation took the D person to the upper end of their distribution, and the A person to their lower end.

    • Dakota Egglefield says:

      Hi Scott,

      I liked the concept of density distributions as well, and was thinking along the same lines as you with potentially two people who have different levels of agreeableness may actually overlap depending on the situation they are placed in. This reminded me of the TASS article we read at the beginning of the semester. I had originally commented about appreciating the concept behind the TASS model but had uncertainty as to its generalizability to other traits that may be less linked to emotion and biologically based, like agreeableness. However, after reading this article about ostracism and having a better understanding of the idea of density distributions, it is easier to see how perhaps the TASS model could apply to other, less biologically based traits.

      • Scott Ewing says:

        Great point, I see the connection. The density distribution thing might just be a different way of conceptualizing the TASS model, focusing more on trait fluctuations and less on the resulting behaviors. Actually, I kinda see my own posts as an example of this. I generally rate very highly on Agreeableness, but looking through my posts in this class, I’ve probably seemed pretty disagreeable, and that may be a reflection of my own distribution. I tend to be a bit cynical regarding social and personality psychology (sorry, no disrespect intended, Dr. B), so maybe this ‘situation’ is taking me to the lower end of my personal Agreeableness distribution.

  7. Ariel says:

    Scott – great points! I completely agree that the psychometrics of the questionnaires they designed are biased and are heavy on priming. I think this point might help to shed light on the question you posed: “why might males behave similarly toward the ‘agreeable’ and the ‘moderate’ Mason?” It is possible that, given the biased questionnaire, the results of this study aren’t reflecting a true psychological difference between males and females. Rather, the results might be highlighting a tendency for females or males to respond in a biased way to priming. If this measure isn’t reliable, these results are just capturing a skewed interpretation of the true differences in these constructs.

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