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Neuroscience Journal
Volume 2013, Article ID 304674, 11 pages
Research Article

Cognitive, Affective, and Motivational Changes during Ostracism: An ERP, EMG, and EEG Study Using a Computerized Cyberball Task

1Graduate School of Integrated Arts and Sciences, Hiroshima University, 1-7-1 Kagamiyama, Higashihiroshima 739-8521, Japan
2Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, 5-3-1 Kojimachi, Chiyoda 102-0083, Japan
3Department of Psychology, Otemon Gakuin University, 2-1-15 Nishiai, Ibaraki 567-8502, Japan

Received 6 July 2013; Revised 3 September 2013; Accepted 23 September 2013

Academic Editor: Stefan Berti

Copyright © 2013 Taishi Kawamoto et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Individuals are known to be highly sensitive to signs of ostracism, such as being ignored or excluded; however, the cognitive, affective, and motivational processes underlying ostracism have remained unclear. We investigated temporal changes in these psychological states resulting from being ostracized by a computer. Using event-related brain potentials (ERPs), the facial electromyogram (EMG), and electroencephalogram (EEG), we focused on the P3b amplitude, corrugator supercilii activity, and frontal EEG asymmetry, which reflect attention directed at stimuli, negative affect, and approach/withdrawal motivation, respectively. Results of the P3b and corrugator supercilii activity replicated findings of previous studies on being ostracized by humans. The mean amplitude of the P3b wave decreased, and facial EMG activity increased over time. In addition, frontal EEG asymmetry changed from relative left frontal activation, suggestive of approach motivation, to relative right frontal activation, indicative of withdrawal motivation. These findings suggest that ostracism by a computer-generated opponent is an aversive experience that in time changes the psychological status of ostracized people, similar to ostracism by human. Our findings also imply that frontal EEG asymmetry is a useful index for investigating ostracism. Results of this study suggest that ostracism has well developed neurobiological foundations.