Social Rejection and Physical Pain May Have More in Common Than Thought

Nobody likes rejection. It’s part of human nature to want to be approved by everybody you meet. Sadly this simply isn’t the case, and in your life you will meet some people that simply do not like you. That feeling you get in your gut that makes you feel as if you just got punched is not just in your head, though — social rejection and physical pain look to be linked.

On the surface, spilling a hot cup of coffee on yourself and thinking about how rejected you feel when you look at the picture of a person that you recently experienced an unwanted break-up with may seem to elicit very different types of pain. But this research shows that they may be even more similar than initially thought.

That quote is from University of Michigan social psychologist Ethan Kross, who has published his and his teams findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. According to Kross, there is a neural overlap between social rejection and physical pain which becomes active when either of these experiences occur.

Their findings came from research they did on 40 individuals that had recently gone through some kind of heartbreak. They took these 40 people and asked them to do a series of tasks, some of which were positive in nature and others were hilariously negative. My personal favorite is “look at this picture of your ex who dumped you.” They then tested the “physical pain” aspect of this by burning them, before soothing the area with a different kind of heat.

Sometimes science can be fun…

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