Social Exclusion and Disengagement of Covert Attention from Social Signs: The Moderating Role of Fear of Negative Evaluation

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Abstract

Previous research has demonstrated that social exclusion motivates individuals with low fear of negative evaluation (FNE) to pay attention to signs of social acceptance, but it does not motivate individuals with high FNE to do so. However, it remains unclear whether this finding reflects overt or covert attentional bias because the researchers employed a dot-probe task. In order to resolve this ambiguity, the present study solely assessed disengagement of covert attention from social signs after exclusion manipulation in an experiment with university students (N = 60). As a result, exclusion delayed disengagement of covert attention from facial stimuli regardless of their types of expression for participants with low FNE, but such delay was not observed for participants with high FNE. The result indicated that social exclusion enhances attention to social information in individuals with low FNE, whereas it does not in individuals with high FNE. We discuss the possibility that a decline in inclusionary status affects overt and covert attentional processes differently.

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