Journal of experimental child psychology

"Next to you"-Young children sit closer to a person following vicarious ostracism.

PMID 28063604


Seeking proximity to another person immediately expresses affiliative intentions. These are highly relevant after experiencing social exclusion. Through a novel task, the current study investigated the relation between proximity and observed ostracism during early childhood. A sample of 64 children (Mage=58months) first watched priming videos either depicting ostracism or not. Subsequently, children saw four seats of varying distances from an interactant's seat and chose where to sit. Children who observed social exclusion selected seats with higher proximity. The results suggest that young preschoolers can immediately express the threatened need to belong by literally getting closer to even a stranger after witnessing ostracism. The task provides new opportunities to test reactions to social exclusion during early childhood.