“Who’s That?”: The Negative Consequences of Being Out of the Loop on Pop Culture

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Being out of the loop is a form of partial ostracism in which one is excluded from a domain of information known by others. We investigate whether being out of the loop on a specific domain of information—pop culture—will lead to negative outcomes associated with more complete forms of ostracism. Participants reported lower need satisfaction and being more out of the loop after viewing unfamiliar, compared to familiar, musicians (Study 1) and celebrities (Study 2). Study 3 assessed a different form of pop culture stimuli—brand logos—and found the same results. Finally, Study 4 utilized an alternative method where participants were exposed to a variety of pop culture stimuli (e.g., movies, books, singers) and also included a non-pop culture-related control condition. Participants in the unfamiliar condition reported lower need satisfaction and feeling more out of the loop than participants in the familiar and control conditions. Across all 4 studies, feeling more out of the loop mediated the relationship between familiarity and need satisfaction level. Additionally, participants’ self-rated pop culture importance did not moderate the effect. Thus, seemingly innocuous reminders of being out of the cultural loop in everyday life are capable of eliciting negative psychological consequences.

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