Posted 07.26.2018 | by AMRA
Social rejection can be hurtful, but people differ in how distressed they become following rejection. People also vary in the strategies they use to reduce distress.
Some people subdue feelings of distress by employing a “top-down” strategy in which cognitive-related brain centers suppress the activity of emotion-related brain centers. This “top-down” strategy is taxing on cognitive resources, and if those resources become depleted, feelings of distress can re-emerge.
Other people employ “bottom-up” strategies such as mindfulness of negative emotions that do not require suppression by cognitive-related brain centers.
Martelli et al. [Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience] studied whether highly mindful people feel less distress when socially rejected, and examined whether cognitive- and emotion-related brain responses to rejection varied according to levels of mindfulness.
The researchers assessed dispositional mindfulness levels among 40 participants (54% male, average age = 19 years) using the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale. Participants then played a computerized Cyberball game while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging.
Cyberball involves a pair of computer-generated characters playing virtual catch with the participant. Participants are misled into believing the computer-generated characters are avatars for real people playing the game. Initially, the computer-generated characters toss the ball between themselves and the participant equally, but in the final minute of play, they toss the ball only between themselves, effectively excluding the participant from the social interaction.
Approximately an hour after the game, participants completed a questionnaire measuring their level of social distress. Participants also completed a manipulation check that showed they believed they were playing Cyberball with live co-participants.
The neurobiology of distress and its suppression is complicated. Feelings of distress are associated with increased activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), […]