ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2014, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (11): 1782-1792.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.01782

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Interaction Effect of Social Exclusion and Gender on Self-focus

WANG Ziwei; TU Ping   

  1. (Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China)
  • Received:2013-12-27 Published:2014-11-25 Online:2014-11-25
  • Contact: WANG Ziwei, E-mail:


Social exclusion has become a very important research topic in psychology in the past two decades. It is an unpleasant but common experience in life and has great impact on individual’s emotion, cognition, motivation, and behavior. However, both prosocial and antisocial behaviors have been found as a result of social exclusion, and the underlying mechanism was not well understood. Williams has proposed a need-threat model to address this issue. It asserts that one's response to social exclusion would depend on which need (relational need versus efficacy need) is more threatened. We provide empirical support to this model from the gender perspective. According to the gender literature, females care more about connections and interpersonal relationships, while males care more about status and achievements. On the basis of the need-threat model and gender literature, the relational threat of social exclusion should be more salient for females while the efficacy threat more salient for males. Employing self-focus level as an indicator reflecting different threats, we predict that social exclusion would increase self-focus level in males and decrease self-focus level in females. To further explore the underlying need-threat mechanism, we also introduce power priming and self-construal manipulation to mitigate the two threats. Four studies were conducted to explore the interaction effect of social exclusion and gender on self-focus. The first two studies were designed to test the main hypothesis. The experiments followed a two by two between-subject design, with participants from each gender randomly assigned to the exclusion or inclusion group. The next two studies aimed at exploring the underlying mechanism of the interaction. The third study brought in power priming as buffer for efficacy threat. If males were driven by efficacy threat and females by relational threat, then boosting power would reduce the influence of social exclusion for males but not for females. The fourth study introduced self-construal manipulation to detect the relational threat of exclusion in female participants. The experiment results supported our hypotheses. A significant interaction effect between social exclusion and gender was discovered, with male participants reporting increased self-focus level and female participants reporting decreased self-focus level after social exclusion treatment. Introducing power manipulation created a significant three-way interaction. Boosting power made male participants less affected by social exclusion, but had no effect on female participants. For female participants, the self-construal manipulation moderated the effect of social exclusion. Independent self-construal manipulation caused female participants to report higher self-focus level after exclusion. Results of the first two studies revealed the exclusion-gender interaction, and results of the last two studies further supported the need-threat mechanism of the gender differences. This research provides empirical support for the need-threat model, establishes an integral theory about the exclusion-gender interaction, and brings new insights in explaining past contradictory findings. The findings can be used to help people deal with social exclusion more efficiently. Highlighting the efficacy threat for males and relational threat for females in social exclusion context, our research can contribute to various fields such as public decision making, organizational management, marketing, and mental healthcare.

Key words: social exclusion, gender, need-threat model, self-focus