Social exclusion and the deconstructed state: time perception, meaninglessness, lethargy, lack of emotion, and self-awareness.
ABSTRACT The authors hypothesize that socially excluded individuals enter a defensive state of cognitive deconstruction that avoids meaningful thought, emotion, and self-awareness, and is characterized by lethargy and altered time flow. Social rejection led to an overestimation of time intervals, a focus on the present rather than the future, and a failure to delay gratification (Experiment 1). Rejected participants were more likely to agree that "Life is meaningless" (Experiment 2). Excluded participants wrote fewer words and displayed slower reaction times (Experiments 3 and 4). They chose fewer emotion words in an implicit emotion task (Experiment 5), replicating the lack of emotion on explicit measures (Experiments 1-3 and 6). Excluded participants also tried to escape from self-awareness by facing away from a mirror (Experiment 6).
- [show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Life meaning and coping strategies were investigated as statistical predictors of suicidal manifestations in a sample of 298 university undergraduates. Participants completed measures of hopelessness, sense of coherence, purpose in life, coping for stressful situations, suicide ideation, prior suicide attempts, and self-reported likelihood of future suicidal behavior. Moderated multiple regression techniques examined the incremental validity of life meaning by coping interactions for predicting each suicide variable separately by gender. The interaction of sense of coherence and emotion-oriented coping made a unique, significant contribution to the statistical prediction of all suicide variables for women. For men, the interaction between sense of coherence and emotion-oriented coping contributed significantly to the statistical prediction of suicide ideation. All interactions remained significant when hopelessness was statistically controlled. The hypothesis that life meaning acts as a buffer between coping style and suicidal manifestations was partially supported. Implications for suicide prevention and intervention are discussed.Journal of Clinical Psychology 01/2002; 57(12):1517-34. · 2.12 Impact Factor
- [show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: A hypothesized need to form and maintain strong, stable interpersonal relationships is evaluated in light of the empirical literature. The need is for frequent, nonaversive interactions within an ongoing relational bond. Consistent with the belongingness hypothesis, people form social attachments readily under most conditions and resist the dissolution of existing bonds. Belongingness appears to have multiple and strong effects on emotional patterns and on cognitive processes. Lack of attachments is linked to a variety of ill effects on health, adjustment, and well-being. Other evidence, such as that concerning satiation, substitution, and behavioral consequences, is likewise consistent with the hypothesized motivation. Several seeming counterexamples turned out not to disconfirm the hypothesis. Existing evidence supports the hypothesis that the need to belong is a powerful, fundamental, and extremely pervasive motivation.Psychological Bulletin 06/1995; 117(3):497-529. · 15.58 Impact Factor
- Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 09/1985; 53(4):544-6. · 4.85 Impact Factor
Social Exclusion and the Deconstructed State: Time Perception,
Meaninglessness, Lethargy, Lack of Emotion, and Self-Awareness
Jean M. Twenge
San Diego State University
Kathleen R. Catanese and Roy F. Baumeister
Case Western Reserve University
The authors hypothesize that socially excluded individuals enter a defensive state of cognitive decon-
struction that avoids meaningful thought, emotion, and self-awareness, and is characterized by lethargy
and altered time flow. Social rejection led to an overestimation of time intervals, a focus on the present
rather than the future, and a failure to delay gratification (Experiment 1). Rejected participants were more
likely to agree that “Life is meaningless” (Experiment 2). Excluded participants wrote fewer words and
displayed slower reaction times (Experiments 3 and 4). They chose fewer emotion words in an implicit
emotion task (Experiment 5), replicating the lack of emotion on explicit measures (Experiments 1–3 and
6). Excluded participants also tried to escape from self-awareness by facing away from a mirror
The desire to be accepted by other people is one of the most
basic and pervasive human drives (Baumeister & Leary, 1995).
When that drive is thwarted through social exclusion or rejection,
people react in a variety of negative ways. People who have been
ostracized report decrements in physical health and increases in
stress and anxiety (K. D. Williams, 2001). People who feel ex-
cluded or rejected often become more aggressive as a result
(Kirkpatrick, Waugh, Valencia, & Webster, 2002; Leary, Kowal-
ski, Smith, & Phillips, 2003; Twenge, Baumeister, Tice, & Stucke,
2001). Self-defeating behavior often increases among socially
excluded people (Twenge, Catanese, & Baumeister, 2002), and
rejected people experience declines in self-esteem (Leary, Tambor,
Terdal, & Downs, 1995). Prisoners who have been subjected to
solitary confinement show an increase in psychotic behaviors
(McGuire & Raleigh, 1986).
Why does social exclusion cause these negative outcomes?
Early theorizing proposed that heightened states of emotional
distress would mediate between social exclusion and negative
behavior. Although intuitively plausible, the emotional distress
theory has not received much support. We have found that social
exclusion produces few differences in emotion but large differ-
ences in behavior (Baumeister, Twenge, & Nuss, in press; Twenge
et al., 2001, 2002; however, Buckley, Winkel, & Leary, 2002, and
K. D. Williams, Cheung, & Choi, 2000, did find significant effects
for mood using somewhat different manipulations). Even when the
effects on emotion do reach significance in our research, they have
failed to mediate the relationship between exclusion and negative
behaviors. Even K. D. Williams (2001), who has found some
significant effects of ostracism on anxiety and other mood reports,
observed that victims of ostracism often seem to respond in a
numb and neutral manner rather than with overt displays of emo-
tion: “It was as though they had been hit with a stun gun” (p. 159).
In this article, we hypothesize that social exclusion will lead to
feelings of inner numbness. People may respond with empty,
neutral, and even bored feelings when their need to belong is
thwarted, rather than the acute emotional distress that at first
seemed plausible. In fact, such numbness could ward off the
emotional distress that might otherwise arise by defensively iso-
lating affect and keeping negative feelings out of awareness (e.g.,
Massong, Dickson, Ritzler, & Layne, 1982). This state has been
characterized as one of cognitive deconstruction, which is marked
not only by a lack of emotion but also by an altered sense of time,
an immersion in the present rather than past or future, a relative
absence of meaningful thought, and lethargy, all of which may be
driven by the attempt to escape from aversive self-awareness
(Baumeister, 1990, 1991; see also Vallacher & Wegner, 1985,
1987). In other words, people may use the deconstructed state as a
defense against the negative experience of social rejection.
Suicide, Exclusion, and Deconstruction
To construct a theoretical approach, we consulted another liter-
ature—research on suicide—in which emotional distress was in-
tuitively plausible, but findings failed to confirm hypotheses. It
seemed logical to assume that people who kill themselves (or even
attempt to do so) must be suffering from acute unhappiness.
Contrary to that view, most findings suggest that the presuicidal
state is marked by flat affect. For example, suicidal people find it
more difficult to recall emotion-laden memories (J. M. Williams &
Jean M. Twenge, Department of Psychology, San Diego State Univer-
sity; Kathleen R. Catanese and Roy F. Baumeister, Department of Psy-
chology, Case Western Reserve University.
Roy F. Baumeister is now at the Department of Psychology, Florida
During part of the completion of this research, Jean M. Twenge was
supported by National Institute of Mental Health National Research Ser-
vice Award Postdoctoral Grant MH12329. We thank Janet Cacho, Dina
Cuervo, and Jay Rudeen for serving as experimenters and Sander Koole for
his invaluable help with the computer program in Experiment 5.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jean M.
Twenge, Department of Psychology, San Diego State University, 5500
Campanile Drive, SanDiego,
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
2003, Vol. 85, No. 3, 409–423
Copyright 2003 by the American Psychological Association, Inc.
Broadbent, 1986) and perform better on tasks with affectively
neutral stimuli (Geller & Atkins, 1978).
Building on those observations, Baumeister (1990) proposed
that the presuicidal state is characterized by a defensive reaction
called cognitive deconstruction. Most suicide attempts are pre-
ceded by some failure or setback that reflects badly on the self. The
person seeks to avoid the aversive self-awareness and the acute
emotional distress that would ensue from thinking about the im-
plications of this recent failure. This is accomplished by having a
narrowly concrete focus on the immediate present rather than a
broadly meaningful thought pattern. Vallacher and Wegner (1985)
described this state as low levels of action identification. This
here-and-now focus may be successful in warding off the intense
emotion that would accompany meaningful self-awareness, but it
causes other undesirable effects. Inhibitions are undermined be-
cause most of them involve meaningful prescriptions about behav-
ior, and so the deconstructed state can cause a variety of impulsive
and disinhibited behavior (of which suicide attempts are one
important form). Without meaning, time seems to drag, and the
person remains stuck in a relatively empty present moment, cut off
from past and future. Deprived of reasons for action, the person
may become passive, lethargic, and idle (which may at least reduce
the number of actual suicide attempts).
Several parallels between suicide research and the impact of
social exclusion suggested that the deconstructed state might be
relevant to both. First, being rejected or excluded from social
groups is often a negative experience that could reflect badly on
the self, which is just the sort of experience that typically precedes
suicide attempts. Excluded people may therefore be wishing to
avoid self-awareness and the accompanying thoughts about what
might be wrong with them (to have caused others to reject them).
Second, as already noted, the absence of emotion was a surprising
but repeated finding in both literatures.
Third, there have been some signs of lethargy among rejected or
ostracized individuals. K. D. Williams’s (2001, chapter 7) allusion
to the “stun gun” effect of being ostracized was an attempt to
integrate a pattern of observations on how research participants
looked and acted after the people sitting on either side of them had
studiously ignored them while talking to each other. They
slumped, stared at their feet, showed no emotion, ignored every-
thing around them, and even sat there doing nothing when the
experiment was ended and everyone else got up to leave. In other
research, K. D. Williams, Cheung, and Choi (2000) reported an
increase in conformity among people who had been ostracized.
The authors interpreted this as a bid to win acceptance by acting
like other people, but it could also reflect passivity: The person
conforms rather than acting in an independent, self-assertive
Fourth, just as suicide is self-destructive, self-destructive behav-
ior has been found to follow from social exclusion. Laboratory
studies by Twenge et al. (2002) found increases in an assortment
of self-defeating behaviors among participants who had been so-
cially excluded: They made a higher proportion of unhealthy
choices, procrastinated, and took foolish risks. Some of these
patterns also reflect the impulsive aspect of the deconstructed state.
Last, there is a direct link between social exclusion and suicide,
which has been apparent for over a century. Durkheim (1897/
1963) showed that suicide rates are highest among people who are
not well integrated into society as a whole, and subsequent work
has continued to support this conclusion (e.g., Trout, 1980). Many
suicide attempts are directly traceable to recent experiences of
social exclusion, such as loss of job or marriage, and suicide rates
are elevated in ethnic groups or occupational categories dwindling
in size (see Baumeister, 1990, for review).
On the basis of these parallels, we hypothesized that social
exclusion might well produce the deconstructed state identified in
presuicidal individuals. If social exclusion thwarts a basic human
drive and challenges one’s self-worth, then people might prefer to
escape self-awareness and emotional distress by hiding out in a
mental state marked by numbness, lack of meaningful thought, and
a narrow focus on concrete, immediate stimuli. We hypothesize
that both social rejection (being rejected by a group of peers) and
social exclusion (hearing that one will be alone later in life) will
lead to the deconstructed state. These are somewhat different
experiences; rejection is more unambiguously personal, but may
be confined to a specific incident, whereas exclusion is less per-
sonal but longer lasting. Although these two experiences may
differ, we hypothesize that their behavioral and emotional effects
will be similar.
Predictions: Exclusion and Deconstruction
The present investigation used a series of experiments that
manipulated social exclusion and then measured various features
of the deconstructed state. It would be excessive to propose that a
simple laboratory manipulation of social exclusion compares with
a presuicidal state. However, these manipulations might make
self-awareness aversive enough for people to seek refuge in emo-
tional numbness and an absence of meaningful thought. Our pre-
dictions were therefore as follows.
Present Orientation Versus Future Orientation
One of the main components of the deconstructed state of
suicidal patients is a focus on the present instead of the future.
Suicidal people find it difficult to think about the future (Neuringer
& Harris, 1974), and they cannot make elaborate predictions about
the future (Yufit & Benzies, 1973). When given a sentence-
completion task, these patients choose fewer future-tense verbs, as
compared with control participants (Greaves, 1971). Many seem
unable to envision the future and even unable to name any poten-
tial consequences of killing themselves (Weiss, 1957). They focus
on the present and do not wish to deal with the future.
Time span is correlated with meaning. As Vallacher and Wegner
(1985, 1987) showed, meaningful thought at high levels of action
identification encompasses long time spans, extending into the past
and future, whereas less meaningful forms of thought focus on
narrow slices of time, especially the immediate present. If social
exclusion causes a shift toward the deconstructed state, then ex-
cluded participants should be more focused on the present rather
than the future.
Disordered Time Perception
According to some theories, this focus on the present represents
some people’s defensive attempts to stop time and not think about
a hopeless future (Hendin, 1982). This leads to a distorted time
perception in which the present seems to last longer than usual.
TWENGE, CATANESE, AND BAUMEISTER
When asked to estimate how much time had elapsed during 30-s
and 60-s intervals, suicidal patients overestimated the amount of
time that had passed (Neuringer & Harris, 1974). In contrast,
control participants estimated the time intervals fairly accurately.
Several other studies found similar results (e.g., Blewett, 1992;
Brockopp & Lester, 1970; Greaves, 1971; Tysk, 1984; Wyrick &
Time perception can be distorted in either direction, of course.
Under some circumstances, people may underestimate time inter-
vals. The “flow” state identified by Csikszentmihalyi (1990) is
typically described as a loss of the sense of the passage of time, so
that people in flow are often surprised to discover how late it has
grown while they were immersed in their activities. Flow is the
opposite of deconstructed numbness, even though both can be
described as some kind of immersion in the present. In flow,
awareness is absorbed in some deeply satisfying activity, and so
each moment is rich. In deconstruction, the present serves as an
escape from meaningful activity, and so it is experienced as
relatively empty, even oppressively boring. The two states have
opposite effects: Someone in flow finds that time flies, whereas
someone in a deconstructed state finds that time drags.
Hence, we predicted that social exclusion should distort the
perception of time flow in the same way that deconstruction does.
That is, excluded individuals should overestimate the duration of
experimentally controlled intervals. In that way, they would re-
semble severely bored people for whom time drags by slowly. The
opposite distortion, in which they would underestimate the dura-
tion of intervals, is more characteristic of meaningful absorption in
stimulating activity, and that seemed very unlikely among socially
The deconstructed state also includes a tendency to reject mean-
ing and higher order explanations. Suicidal people are cognitively
rigid and use a narrow perspective as a way to cope with their
situation (Baumeister, 1990). In addition, they see little meaning in
life and believe that life is not worth living. One study found a
connection between suicidal tendencies and lack of perceived
meaning in life (Edwards & Holden, 2001). Rogers (2001) has
asserted that a failure to create meaning underlies most suicide
attempts. Social exclusion may produce a similar mental state, as
a present or future without close relationships may seem mean-
ingless. K. D. Williams (2001) theorized that ostracism threatens
meaningful existence because being ignored by others simulates
the invisibility and worthlessness of death (pp. 63–64). Across
several studies, K. D. Williams and his colleagues found that
ostracized people reported that their sense of meaningful existence
had been threatened (K. D. Williams, Bernieri, Faulkner, Grahe, &
Gada-Jain, 2000; K. D. Williams et al., 2002; K. D. Williams,
Shore, & Grahe, 1998).
Meaningful thought is an important basis for self-awareness and
emotion, as these depend on interpreting one’s current situation
and comparing it with standards. Rejection may threaten meaning-
fulness because it strikes a blow against one’s anticipated future
life as surrounded with friends and family. At a simpler level,
meaningful thought may be aversive in the wake of rejection
because the person is tempted to ask why he or she was rejected,
and many possible answers would reflect badly on the self. Evad-
ing meaningful thought is therefore important for the strategy of
warding off aversive self-awareness and emotional distress.
In the present investigation, we included a brief measure of
perceived meaningfulness of life, and we predicted that social
exclusion—even a laboratory manipulation that was separate from
all the meaningful aspects of the person’s life outside the labora-
tory—would cause participants to shift toward perceiving less
meaning in their lives.
Suicidal people often display chronic passivity and lethargy,
which constitute another characteristic of the deconstructed state.
Suicide notes often express acceptance and passive submission
(Henken, 1976), and suicidal patients are generally more passive
(Gerber, Nehemkis, Farberow, & Williams, 1981; Mehrabian &
Weinstein, 1985). These patients also exhibit an external locus of
control and thus perceive personal action as unnecessary, because
they feel their fate is out of their hands (Gerber et al., 1981; Melges
& Weisz, 1971; Topol & Reznikoff, 1982). As Baumeister (1990)
observed, passivity further enables those in the deconstructed state
to escape from self-awareness.
In addition, passivity and lethargy may result from the decon-
structed state because many actions and decisions require mean-
ingful thought, which is aversive in the wake of rejection. That is,
a rejected person may minimize emotional distress by avoiding
meaning, but the basis for intelligent and planful action is under-
mined as well. (Impulsive or aimless activity, automatic responses,
and simple compliance with clear external demands would not be
prevented, however, because these do not require meaningful
choice.) Moreover, self-conscious action tends to implicate the self
as a responsible agent, so people who wish to avoid self-awareness
may shun such action. As noted above, social ostracism leads to
lethargic behavior (K. D. Williams, 2001), although up to now
those reports have been anecdotal. In the present investigation, we
measured lethargy during a writing task and a reaction-time task.
Lack of Emotion
Presuicidal individuals tend to report an absence of emotion
(e.g., Geller & Atkins, 1978; J. M. Williams & Broadbent, 1986),
which at first seems counterintuitive. After all, if one is not upset,
why try to kill oneself? Baumeister (1990) proposed that the
presuicidal state is actually accompanied by defensive efforts to
shut down one’s emotional responses to avoid the acute distress
that might accompany meaningful thought about one’s circum-
stances, which for presuicidal people are often quite negative.
As already indicated, the lack of emotion observed in our
previous studies of social exclusion (e.g., Baumeister et al., 2002;
Twenge et al., 2001, 2002) came as a surprise and prompted us to
revise our assumptions about what mediates the behavioral effects
of thwarting the need to belong. We were reluctant to conclude that
the lack of emotion meant that participants were fully indifferent to
the manipulations of social rejection and exclusion. Instead, we
began to think that they entered into the deconstructed state as a
way of warding off emotion and defending themselves against
A simpler explanation for the lack of self-reported emotion in
our studies is that participants have simply been reluctant to admit
EXCLUSION AND DECONSTRUCTION
to feeling upset. Possibly they thought they would lose face if they
acknowledged how upset they were after being rejected by others.
The present investigation included some self-report measures of
emotion, but we also included implicit measures of emotional
response. If the lack of emotion is merely an artifact of self-report
bias and impression management concerns, then participants might
show heightened emotionality on implicit measures. In contrast, if
they really have entered into a numb state as a defensive way of
shutting down their emotions, then they should show little or no
emotion on the implicit measures and might even avoid emotional
Escape From Self-Awareness
The deconstructed state includes escape from emotional distress,
but the emotional distress itself stems from self-awareness in
connection with recent failures or setbacks (Baumeister, 1990,
1991). In fact, suicide attempts may occur because the person
cannot escape from self-awareness by other means, so death be-
comes desirable as a form of oblivion (Baumeister, 1990). Con-
sistent with that view, presuicidal individuals seem to struggle with
aversive self-awareness. Suicide notes contain a greater percentage
of first-person singular pronouns (and not of first-person plural
pronouns, which would imply interpersonal connection) compared
with other documents, simulated suicide notes, and even notes
written by people who are facing involuntary death (Henken,
1976). Use of first-person pronouns is a well-established measure
of self-awareness (e.g., Wegner & Giulano, 1980). Thus, suicidal
people seem to experience a high level of self-awareness, perhaps
so high that they seek escape through death.
Therefore, our final prediction was that social exclusion would
lead to avoiding self-awareness. Being rejected or otherwise ex-
cluded would focus attention on the individual self as not part of
the group and possibly as having socially undesirable traits. Be-
cause most people desire to gain social acceptance and maintain
satisfying relationships with others, an experience of social exclu-
sion could signify that something is wrong with the self. Contem-
plating one’s possible shortcomings would presumably be an aver-
sive exercise in self-awareness. Hence, excluded people should
want to defensively avoid self-awareness.
Experiment 1 provided a direct test of the effect of social
rejection on time perception, delay of gratification, and emotion.
The deconstructed state includes a relative lack of emotion and a
perception that time is dragging. Thus we predicted that rejected
people would report relatively little emotion and would exhibit
several departures from a normal time orientation. Specifically,
they would overestimate the duration of time intervals and would
exhibit a present rather than a future time focus. The present
orientation should also work against delay of gratification, as delay
of gratification requires the person to forgo immediate rewards for
the sake of a better future.
In our procedure, groups of participants first engaged in a
structured conversation designed to help them get to know each
other. After this, all participants were asked to name the two
people with whom they would most like to work in pairs. By
random assignment, half the participants were told that no one had
expressed an interest in working with them, which constituted a
palpable and seemingly unanimous social rejection; the other half
heard that everyone chose them.
Participants then completed a battery of measures. First, they
were asked to judge the length of two time intervals. The experi-
menter told participants that the stopwatch would run for a certain
length of time, and they should give their best judgment of how
much time had passed. If rejected participants show symptoms of
the deconstructed state, they should perceive time as dragging and
will think more time has passed than actually has. (In contrast,
anything resembling the subjective “flow” experience would be
reflected in underestimation of time intervals, signifying that time
passes very rapidly.) Participants also completed a long mood
measure (to test for flattened affect) and a future time orientation
scale. Last, they were given a measure of delay of gratification, in
the form of a hypothetical choice between two jobs that differed in
short-term and long-term rewards.
The participants were 54 undergraduates (33 men, 21 women) partici-
pating as part of a course requirement for introductory psychology. They
were 76% White and 24% racial minority, and their average age was 18.8
Materials and Procedure
single-sex groups of 4–6 people. They were given nametags on which they
wrote their first names. They were given both written and oral instructions
to learn each other’s names and then talk for about 15 min using a set of
questions as a guide (the questions were taken from the Relationship
Closeness Induction Task developed by Sedikides, Campbell, Reeder, &
Elliot, 1999). After 15 min, the experimenter led the participants to
separate rooms, where participants nominated the two group members they
wanted to interact with again: “We are interested in forming groups in
which the members like and respect each other. Below, please name the
two people (out of those you met today) you would most like to work
with.” Instead of using these nominations, however, participants were
randomly assigned to be accepted or rejected by the group. Accepted
participants were told that everyone had picked them, and rejected partic-
ipants heard that no one picked them. In both cases, they were told that they
would work alone because of the unusual outcome. This procedure was
adapted from Leary et al. (1995) and was used in Twenge et al. (2001).
Judgment of time intervals.
Participants then judged the length of two
time intervals. The experimenter said, “I’m going to let the stopwatch go
for a certain amount of time, and when I stop it, I want you to tell me how
much time passed.” They were asked not to count or use their fingers to
keep track of the time. The first time interval was 40 s, and the participants
estimated the amount of time that had passed. The second interval was 80 s.
The experimenter recorded each participant’s estimates and did not give
any feedback about the estimates. Because of experimenter error, some
participants did not complete the time interval judgments, leaving a sample
of 39 participants for the first time interval and 33 participants for the
second time interval.
All participants then completed a battery of ques-
tionnaires, beginning with a one-item mood measure ranging from 1
(negative) to 7 (positive). The next page asked the participant to rate his or
her current mood on 41 adjectives using 7-point Likert scales. These
included 8 adjectives describing positive affect (e.g., happy, calm) and 33
describing negative affect (e.g., angry, nervous, fearful, ashamed).
Participants arrived at the lab in
TWENGE, CATANESE, AND BAUMEISTER
Delay of gratification.
the following scenario (modified from Kuhlen & Monge, 1968):
Participants then completed a form describing
A friend of yours of your own age has had two jobs offered to him/her.
One job has a relatively high starting salary, but little promise of
advancement or better income. The other job offers a starting salary
that is considerably lower but with the possibility of substantial
advancement and a much higher later income. Which job would you
advise him/her to accept?
The two possibilities offered were: “A. the job with the higher immediate
salary or B. the job starting with the lower salary, but with the possibility
of much higher later income.” Participants then responded to the question
“How certain are you that this is what you would advise?” on a 7-point
Likert scale ranging from 1 (not at all certain) to 7 (very certain). This was
converted into a continuous scale ranging from 1 (very certain of nondelay
response) to 14 (very certain of delay of gratification response). This
served as a measure of delay of gratification; choice A favors a short-term
gain at the expense of long-term gain, whereas choice B favors long-term
gain over short-term gain. Choice B is thus scored as higher delay of
Time orientation self-report.
Participants also responded to two self-
report measures of time orientation. The first was 10 items measuring
present versus future time orientation using a 7-point Likert scale. The
items were adapted from Kuhlen and Monge (1968) and Gjesme (1979),
including items such as “I can only think about the present,” “I find it
difficult to think about the future,” “I am most concerned about how I feel
in the present,” and “I feel a strong tendency to enjoy myself today and let
the future take care of itself.” This scale had an alpha reliability of .73 in
this sample. This measure was scored in the direction of high scores
indicating a future orientation, and low scores indicating a more present
orientation. The second time orientation measure consisted of 20 items
taken from the Zimbardo Time Perception Inventory (ZTPI; Zimbardo &
Boyd, 1999), which was originally developed as a trait measure. The items
used here were reworded to serve as a state measure of time perception. For
example, many items were changed to the present tense. These items
yielded subscales based on the original ZTPI, including future orientation,
past negative, past positive, hedonistic, and present fatalistic.
Results and Discussion
Would people rejected by their peers show distorted time per-
ception, less orientation toward the future, less ability to delay
gratification, and flattened affect? As Table 1 shows, all of these
predictions were confirmed.
Disordered Time Perception
We predicted that rejected participants would experience a spe-
cific pattern of distortions in time perception, including a sense
that time was moving slowly. When asked to judge a 40-s time
interval, rejected participants estimated that more than a minute
had passed (M ? 63.71), whereas accepted participants were fairly
accurate in their estimate (M ? 42.50), F(1, 37) ? 8.58, p ? .006.
The results were similar for the 80-s interval, with rejected par-
ticipants again significantly overestimating the amount of time that
had passed (M ? 100.06), whereas accepted participants were
more accurate (M ? 71.13), F(1, 31) ? 7.40, p ? .01. These
overestimations are consistent with the deconstructed state, in
which time drags by slowly.
Future Versus Present Orientation
Rejected participants were also more present oriented and less
future oriented on a self-report scale, F(1, 50) ? 4.37, p ? .05.
They were more likely to agree that they only wanted to think
about the present and found it difficult to think about the future.
Present orientation is another important feature of the decon-
structed state, particularly because present activities often draw
meaning from the future (such as goals or anticipated fulfillments).
To defensively avoid meaning, one severs the present from the
Social exclusion did not produce significant differences on any
of the scales of the other time perception inventory, the ZTPI. This
may have occurred because the ZTPI was written originally as a
trait measure and not as a state measure. Alternatively, the decon-
structed state may not affect the categories of time perception
measured by the ZTPI.
Delay of Gratification
The social exclusion manipulation also elicited different re-
sponses on the measure of delay of gratification. Accepted partic-
ipants overwhelmingly (94%) reported that they would advise a
friend to take the job that had a lower starting salary but more
possibilities for advancement (vs. a job with a higher starting
salary and little promise of advancement). Such an approach
The Effect of Social Exclusion on Time Perception, Future Orientation, Delay of Gratification, and Mood, Experiment 1
F dfM SDM SD
40-s time interval
80-s time interval
Future orientation scale
Delay of gratification (% choosing delay)
Delay of gratification confidence rating (1–14)
One-item mood rating (1–7)
?2(1, N ? 51) ? 4.74*
* p ? .05.
ZTPI ? Zimbardo Time Perception Inventory.
** p ? .01.
EXCLUSION AND DECONSTRUCTION