Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Adaptations to Avoid Ostracism

  • David S. ChesterEmail author
  • Nathan Dewall
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1474-1



Humans evolved strategies to avoid being ignored, left out, or ostracized. By avoiding ostracism, our evolutionary ancestors were better suited to their environment. Such adaptations helped ensure our survival and reproduction.


The need to belong is a basic feature of human psychology and characterizes us as a species (MacDonald and Leary 2005). Ostracism threatens this need. To help our ancestors achieve their survival and reproductive goals, people evolved adaptations to prevent ostracism. Below, examples of adaptations to avoid ostracism are listed.

Social Pain

Physical pain evolved to alert us to environmental threats and to serve as a preventative force against physical injuries (Bolles and Fanselow 1980). Social pain, the aversive experience associated with ostracism, arose from an evolutionary push to co-opt the physical pain system to respond to social injuries (e.g., ostracism; Chester et al. 2012). Much like...

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA
  2. 2.University of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Minna Lyons
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK