Reijntjes, A., Thomaes, S., Bushman, B. J., Boelen, P. A., Orobio de Castro, B., & Telch, M. J. (2010). The outcast-lash-out effect in youth: Alienation increases aggression following peer rejection. Psychological Science.
Although there are good theoretical reasons to believe that youth who are high in alienation (i.e., estranged from society, significant others, and themselves) are prone to behave aggressively, empirical evidence is lacking. The present experiment tested whether alienation moderates the effects of acute peer rejection on aggression in youth. Participants (N = 121; mean age = 11.5 years) completed a personal profile (e.g., “How do you describe yourself?”) that was allegedly evaluated online by a panel of peer judges. After randomly receiving negative or positive feedback from peer judges, participants were given the opportunity to aggress against them (i.e., by reducing their monetary reward and by posting negative comments about them online). As predicted, alienation increased participants’ aggression against peers who had rejected them, but not against peers who had praised them, even after controlling for peer-nominated chronic rejection and peer-nominated aggression. Thus, alienated youth are more aggressive than others when they experience acute peer rejection.