Why do some people like to exclude others

Not you! - Why people marginalize others

Research results, scientific publications

A recent study shows that people who are not well tolerated and who are unreliable are more likely to be excluded.

Many have already experienced social exclusion - at school, at work or among friends and family. Together with colleagues from the Universities of Basel (Switzerland) and Virginia (USA), Junior Professor Dr. Selma Rudert from the University of Koblenz-Landau is investigating whether certain personality traits increase the risk of being marginalized by other people.

“In our study we come to the conclusion that personality is an important risk factor for social exclusion. People who are not well tolerated and who are unreliable are more likely to be marginalized, ”reports social psychologist Selma Rudert. "This means that people who are often cold, suspicious and indifferent towards other people or who are unreliable and negligent in working with others have an increased risk of being marginalized by others."

In its studies, the research team around Rudert focused on the so-called “Big Five” of personality: conscientiousness, tolerance, extraversion, emotional stability and openness to new things. They identified the two risk factors “low tolerance” and “low conscientiousness” as particularly relevant. This result can be explained well from an evolutionary psychological perspective, believes Rudert: People would exclude other people especially if they consider them to be poor cooperation partners. This applies in particular to incompatible and not very conscientious people. “People who are characterized by a low level of tolerance often pose a threat to the cohesion of the group because they do not adhere to social rules. And people with a low level of conscientiousness could quickly turn out to be a burden for a group, especially if it wants to achieve certain goals, ”says the social psychologist.

Previous research on social exclusion has often focused on the experience of the excluded person. "In order to understand the phenomenon of social exclusion and to be able to counteract it, however, it is necessary to understand why exclusion occurs in the first place," says Rudert, explaining the new focus of the current studies.

The research team carried out a total of seven studies online and in the laboratory with 40 to 800 participants per study. The participants were presented with descriptions of people with different personality traits. Then they had to decide, for example, whether they wanted to exclude the person from a future group activity. In other studies, they should provide information about how likely they are to exhibit exclusionary behavior towards the person.

The research is important for topics such as bullying and exclusion in school or at work, according to the scientist. Rudert points out, however, that even friendly and reliable behavior in these contexts cannot completely protect against social exclusion. “Rather, in addition to the personality of the excluded person, there are of course also situational circumstances that can cause social exclusion.” Specifically, for example, strong competition within certain groups could lead to social exclusion or simply coincidence because a person is accidentally ignored. If you want to reduce exclusion in groups, you have to counteract these processes. This can be achieved through measures that reduce internal and external pressure and competition within a group.

Scientific contact:
University of Koblenz-Landau
Jun-Prof. Dr. Selma rows
FB 8: Psychology
Fortstrasse 7
76829 Landau / Palatinate
Tel .: (06341) 280-31232
Email: [email protected]

Press contact:
University of Koblenz-Landau
Kerstin Theilmann
Unit L12: Public Relations
Tel .: (06341) 280-32219
Email: [email protected]

Original publication:

Rudert, S. C., Keller, M., Hales, A. H., Walker, M., & Greifeneder, R. (in press). Who do we ostracize? A personality perspective on risk and protective factors of ostracism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. doi: 10.1037 / pspp0000271