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November 7, 2013

Leaders learning ways to intervene

Purdue professor discusses ostracism research.

FLORA — Imagine sitting on a train in a row of three seats. The three people sitting in the row know each other from work. In fact, the two people sitting on the sides are angry at the person in the middle for an incident that occurred at work.

Between train stops, the people on the sides confront the middle person and express their anger. The person apologizes, but the others do not listen or accept the apology. After the next stop the side riders ignore the middle rider completely, refusing to talk, look at or listen to the person.

Carroll County community leaders were asked to role play that scenario during the second “All In: Building an Inclusive Community” forum Wednesday night.

A woman who had been the ignored rider described feeling like she was back in school again. Another man described feeling unwanted, as if he wasn’t part of the group. The outside riders felt in control and others described an adrenaline rush.

The scenario is one of the experiments Dr. Kipling Williams, a professor at Purdue University, uses to show the effects of ostracism, or exclusion.

Williams has been researching the results of ostracism through experiments, surveys and self-reporting instances like keeping a diary of instances of ostracism. Other examples of ostracism can be giving someone the silent treatment or “freezing out” someone.

When ignored or excluded, people can feel pain, anger and stress. These feelings can then threaten one’s sense of belonging, self-esteem and control.

Part of the research indicates that pain caused by ostracism can lead to violence or violent behaviors. Someone in the crowd Wednesday asked if all people will react violently and Williams said personality has a lot to do with reactions.

“Personality causes the brain to react differently from others,” Williams said. “The brain adapts to different reactions.”

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