November 7, 2013

Leaders learning ways to intervene

Purdue professor discusses ostracism research.

By Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune

---- — 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.”

Another audience member asked if time-outs should not be given to children.

“I’d suggest it has unintended consequences,” Williams said. “Self-esteem, belonging and control drops and sometimes children will do things to provoke responses or attention as a result of a time-out.”

Ostracism causes a behavioral effect, like making people more likely to conform, and can also cause people to become more aggressive, Williams said. It also might make people become more impulsive or interfere with someone’s ability to solve problems.

Extended periods of it can make it harder for the person who is ostracizing to stop. It might be harder to stop giving a silent treatment because of the control it gives, Williams said.

Williams ended the forum by suggesting what can be done. Suggestions he had were getting people to stop ostracizing others, providing education about ostracism and finding ways to make it less painful for people or improve coping skills.

Interventions include providing social support.

“Social support and having just one friend, or a social connection, is vital,” Williams said.

Other suggestions included meditation, prayer, or stopping people from ruminating can help calm people and speed up recovery.

Chris Lagoni, Carroll Consolidated School Corporation superintendent, spoke of his experience leading children’s church. He asked Williams what to do when a child might be perceived as socially awkward, which results in the group sometimes avoiding or leaving out the child.

Williams said discipline and intervention are necessary as a teacher.

The third session will be Nov. 13 at the Wabash and Erie Canal center, Delphi, and will allow for discussion on actions that individuals and organizations can take. There will be a light supper at 6 p.m. and the program will be 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or Follow her: @PharosAES.