Naomi I. Eisenberger,
Matthew D. Lieberman,
Kipling D. Williams
Tyson Miao
Social bonds are important
 Essential for physical and emotional well-being
 Social attachment system after birth keeps young near
their caregiver
 a healthy/balanced social life = Happiness
Does social exclusion “hurt”?
 Many languages use the same words to describe physical
pain and social exclusion. “Heart ache”; “hurt feelings”.
 Do physical pain and social exclusion share similar
neural mechanism?
The brain regions activated by social pain are similar to
those found in previous studies of physical pain.
In particular, this fMRI study focused on 2 brain regions,
which have been associated with physical pain
Anterior Cingulated Cortex (ACC)
2) Right Ventral Prefrontal Cortex (RVPFC)
Anterior Cingulated Cortex (ACC)
 Act as alarm and monitors conflicts with current goal
 Pain = “something Wrong” = activate ACC
 Dorsal ACC is activated by the distress generated by
pain, rather than the sensory component of pain
Right Ventral Prefrontal Cortex (RVPFC)
 Involved in the regulation of pain distress
 Inhibit response to painful stimulation
 VPFC has efferent connections to ACC, may partially
regulate ACC
fMRI scans were acquired while
participants played a virtual balltossing game under three
Implicit social exclusion (ISE)
- Technical difficulty
Explicit social exclusion (ESE)
– after participants received
7 throws from 2 other players,
the ball no longer passed
toward the participants
 The “2 other players” were computer programs, although the
participants believed they were real.
 The order of the conditions was not randomized. It followed
1)ISE 2)Inclusion 3)ESE
 This order minimized the residual effect of active exclusion
during ESE
 Participants self-reported their distress due to exclusion after
ESE vs Inclusion
 Dorsal ACC was more active during ESE
 ACC activity positively correlated with self-reported
ESE vs Inclusion con’t
 RVPFC was more active during ESE
 RVPFC activity negatively correlated with self-reported
distress and ACC activation
 ACC activity mediated RVPFC activity, not distress
 Physical pain and Social exclusion shares similar neural
mechanism which involve ACC and RVPFC
 ACC is activated by distress, which result in RVPFC
activation. RVPFC then inhibits the response of ACC
 This self-regulation only occurred during ESE, suggesting
that conscious awareness may be an essential part of
Opinion on the Paper
Detailed background
Interesting study
Order of condition not
No support for a direct
Paper is unorganized
Future Directions
 Comparison of degree of activation during physical pain and
emotional exclusion
 Analyze recovery period & susceptibility
 Investigate other brain regions
Midterm guide
Claim: Physical pain and Social exclusion shares similar
neural mechanism which involve ACC and RVPFC
Result: ACC is activated by social exclusion, which result
in RVPFC activation. RVPFC then inhibits the
response of ACC
Discussion :
 Self regulation requires awareness
 Distress does not activate RVPFC
 Need time to recover from emotional distress
 Social exclusion hurts
Eisenberger, N. I., Lieberman, M. D., & Williams, K. D.
(2003). Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Study of Social
Exclusion. Science, 302(5643), 290-292.
Thank You

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