Humans are strongly affected by social exclusion, a multifaceted and complex phenomenon of social life. However, individuals tend to respond differently depending on a multitude of individual and contextual factors. Firstly, with a view to increasing the ecological validity and experimental control of an exclusion manipulation in the laboratory setting, we made use of immersive virtual environment technology (IVET; an Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset) to create a new exclusion paradigm. Secondly, given that a recent meta-analytic report on reflexive responses (i.e., affect and physiology) to manipulations of exclusion in the laboratory setting cites inconsistencies across findings (Blackhart et al., 2009), we focused on the form of exclusion manipulated to illustrate how this factor may help to explain the divergences in responses. We thus investigated how explicit and implicit forms of social exclusion may have a differential impact on self-reported affect, as well as on electrodermal and cardiovascular activity. Results from this laboratory study conducted with a varied sample of the local population made salient the affordances of IVET as a tool in exclusion research. They also helped to reconcile the conflicting findings in the literature relating to differences in the level of negative affect generated and shed light on physiological arousal in the wake of being excluded in different ways.
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