Ostracizers’ mark of disgrace: Social exclusion increases the actor–observer difference

Elianne A. Albath, Elena Stephan, Rainer Greifeneder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The actor–observer difference describes the tendency to explain own actions with variable and external aspects, but others’ actions with stable and internal characteristics. We test two opposing predictions of how changes in attribution vary as a function of being ignored and excluded. On the one hand, individuals may cope by psychologically distancing themselves from sources of exclusion, potentially producing stable and internal representations of them. On the other hand, excluded individuals are particularly sensitive to social cues, which may foster a more variable and externally motivated representation of sources’ behaviours. Consistent with the first prediction, excluded (vs. included) individuals (total N = 1,052 in four studies) perceived causes for negative hypothetical outcomes as more internal and, to a somewhat lesser extent, more stable for others involved in the interaction. The use of different methodological approaches across studies attests to this conclusion's robustness and addresses alternative explanations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)610-628
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • actor–observer difference
  • ostracism
  • person perception
  • self versus other
  • social exclusion


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