"It's a whole different ball-game!"

Differential effects for attachment-styles during social exclusion: An ERP study

Lars White

Supervisor: Dr Linda Mayes

Course: MSc in Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology

In a three-year follow-up 23 adolescents (11-15 years; 15 male, 8 female) previously classified secure and insecure-dismissing were administered a virtual ball-tossing game. Playing with pre-programmed “peers” involving consecutive conditions of inclusion, exclusion and re-inclusion, event-related potentials were sampled in response to exclusion and receiving balls (Favors) during inclusion versus re-inclusion.

No differences between attachment-classifications emerged during exclusion, although average amplitudes of two late components were highly correlated with self-reported ostracism distress.

Favors yielded a significant group by condition interaction with secure children remaining relatively stable, but dismissing children evidencing an exaggerated N400-like potential pre- versus post-exclusion. Findings are consistent with protracted recovery times for dismissing versus insecure children, despite activation of similar magnitude concurrent to a social stressor.


White, L.O, Wu, J., Borelli, J.L., Rutherford, H.J.V., David, D.H., Kim-Cohen, J., Mayes, L.C., & Crowley, M.J. (2012). Attachment predicts neural sensitivity to rejection during the transition to adolescence. Emotion, 12(4): 690-700.