Feelings of rejection are not simply “in your head,” as the
saying goes. A study released Oct. 10 in the journal Science
concluded that the brain registers social and physical pain
The study, conducted by the University of California at Los
Angeles and Macquarie University in Australia, simulated rejection
by excluding one young person from a computer game. The researchers
found that systematic rejection leads to increased activity in the
anterior cingulate, an area in the brain associated with physical
Subjects in the study registered social exclusion in this area
associated with physical pain, though they did not exhibit any
actual pain, according to the report.
Identifying the neurology of rejection provides insight into
more severe conditions of depression and suicide. The results
indicate that extreme situations resulting from peer rejection,
like school shootings, now have some biological basis, the
researchers said in a written statement.
Ostracism and rejection deprive people of a sense of belonging
and control, self-esteem and a “meaningful existence,” the study
At the University, psychology researchers have investigated a
number of factors that affect responses to social rejection.
Studies show that personality traits can offset or exacerbate
Rackham student Christian Waugh, who conducts research in
psychology, said self-esteem is integral when studying mental
health. People with high self-esteem who rely less on relationships
tend to weather rejection better.
“The findings are that people who are more highly connected, and
have better/more enjoyable relationships report better mental and
physical health,” Waugh said.
Psychology Prof. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema confirmed that stable
relationships are essential to emotional well-being.
On campus, there are a number of resources available for
students who feel the pangs of rejection and emotional stress.
The University’s Counseling and Psychological Services is the
central support service on campus. Though the office’s number of
cases has increased this year, it continues to work with faculty
and staff to make sure students know of its services.
“We do hear that students don’t know that we are here. We’re
consistently trying to get the word out that we exist,” said Todd
Sevig, director of CAPS.
Often inundated with materials during orientation, students tend
to forget about the University’s offerings, Sevig said. With a
staff of professional psychologists and social workers providing
both individual and group counseling, CAPS is one of the
University’s main resources for mental help.
But Sevig mentioned that other resources are available, such the
campus’ psychological clinic and the University Center for the
Child and Family.
In residence halls, resident advisors are trained “to listen, be
compassionate and caring, and to know the right resources,” said
Jeanine Bessette, assistant director of residence education for
“But (residence advisors) are not trained to be counselors. They
not trained to be the primary (source) of support,” Bessette
LSA junior Andre Porchia, an RA in Couzens Residence Hall,
recounted what he did when students came to him with emotional
“I talked them through it. If I could tell that they really
needed some help, I referred them to someone who was more
experienced. I was trained to do that,” Porchia said. “I let them
know that there are people out there.”