Who is most vulnerable to social rejection? The toxic combination of low self-esteem and lack of negative emotion differentiation on neural responses to rejection.

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PloS one, ISSN: 1932-6203, Vol: 9, Issue: 3, Page: e90651

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https://uknowledge.uky.edu/psychology_facpub/125; https://digitalcommons.stmarys-ca.edu/school-science-faculty-works/62
10.1371/journal.pone.0090651; 10.1371/journal.pone.0090651.g002; 10.1371/journal.pone.0090651.g001
PMC3942456; 3942456
Todd B. Kashdan; C. Nathan DeWall; Carrie L. Masten; Richard S. Pond; Caitlin Powell; David Combs; David R. Schurtz; Antonina S. Farmer; Jon D. Elhai
Public Library of Science (PLoS); Figshare; Saint Mary's Digital Commons
Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology; Agricultural and Biological Sciences; Biological Sciences; Medicine; Sociology; neuroscience; neuroimaging; fmri; Mental health; psychology; behavior; emotions; Psychological stress; Social psychology; neurology; personality; exclusion; inclusion; differentiation; neural; activation; mental health; psychological stress; social psychology; Psychology
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People have a fundamental need to belong that, when satisfied, is associated with mental and physical well-being. The current investigation examined what happens when the need to belong is thwarted-and how individual differences in self-esteem and emotion differentiation modulate neural responses to social rejection. We hypothesized that low self-esteem would predict heightened activation in distress-related neural responses during a social rejection manipulation, but that this relationship would be moderated by negative emotion differentiation-defined as adeptness at using discrete negative emotion categories to capture one's felt experience. Combining daily diary and neuroimaging methodologies, the current study showed that low self-esteem and low negative emotion differentiation represented a toxic combination that was associated with stronger activation during social rejection (versus social inclusion) in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and anterior insula-two regions previously shown to index social distress. In contrast, individuals with greater negative emotion differentiation did not show stronger activation in these regions, regardless of their level of self-esteem; fitting with prior evidence that negative emotion differentiation confers equanimity in emotionally upsetting situations.