Here’s a link to an interesting article discussing recent research into the link between social rejection and aggressive behavior. In two separate studies, researchers set up conditions where individuals are either “rejected” or “accepted,” and then assessed their follow-up perceptions and interpretations. The research suggests individuals who are socially rejected tend to perceive the actions of others as significantly more hostile, and are more likely to act hurtful towards people they do not know. From the article:
"Prior case studies show the majority of school shooters have experienced chronic peer rejection," said the study's lead author, C. Nathan DeWall, Ph.D., from the University of Kentucky. "And while not everyone who feels rejected reacts violently, we found they tend to act out aggressively in other ways. We wanted to help explain psychologically why this happens." A full report of the study appears in the January issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association.
The article touches specifically on the phenomena of school shootings, but the ramifications of the connection between rejection and aggression go well beyond that. Obviously, the most significant application of information like this is in schools, where social interaction is a daily occurrence, and world views are still being formed. Obviously, there are still numerous areas of research in this area as well. For example, what about perceived rejection versus actual rejection? Are some individuals better able to handle rejection than others, and why? If someone has experienced chronic rejection, what interventions can reverse their hostile interpretations? In addition, are there certain quantifiable characteristics in people that correlate with being rejected more frequently? Questions abound! Therapy would focus on these issues on a case by case basis, but trends on a larger scale would be excellent to quantify, in addition to being helpful in providing clinicians with more direction (particularly with prevention and early intervention).
As a broken record in addition to a blogger, I will point out the indirect relationship this research has to social connectivity. Simply put, efforts on the part of people in general to attempt to connect with others, in particular with those who have, for whatever reason, difficulty connecting to others, would have a positive impact in this area as well.