Distress and Retaliatory Aggression in Response to Witnessing Intergroup Exclusion are Greater on Higher Levels of Collective Narcissism

Golec, Agnieszka; Hase, Adrian; Behenke, Maciej; Mazurkiewicz, Magdalena and Wieteska, Kamil. 2021. Distress and Retaliatory Aggression in Response to Witnessing Intergroup Exclusion are Greater on Higher Levels of Collective Narcissism. Psychophysiology, 58(9), e13879. ISSN 0048-5772 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The negative consequences of social exclusion have been demonstrated by multiple studies. Less is known about the consequences of witnessing one’s own group being excluded by other groups, although studies suggest exclusion can be experienced vicariously and negatively affects members of the excluded group. Results of the present lab-based experiment (N = 153), indicate, in line with our predictions, that observed intergroup exclusion (manipulated by an adapted intergroup Cyberball paradigm) produced a sense of personal exclusion. It also increased self-reported emotional distress and behavioral aggression Measured in the Taylor Aggression Paradigm), especially among participants high on collective narcissism: a belief that the exaggerated greatness of the in-group is not sufficiently appreciated by others. Contrary to expectations, a short mindfulness intervention (instructing participants to observe thoughts and emotions as transient mental products without engaging with them) delivered while witnessing intergroup exclusion (vs. inclusion) produced changes in heart rate variability reactivity indicative of emotional arousal especially among collective narcissists. We concluded that people high on collective narcissism are vulnerable to vicarious intergroup exclusion, react aggressively to it, and in consequence are potentially at risk of stress-related health and psychosocial problems. Furthermore, a mindfulness intervention, despite being an effective strategy to reduce maladaptive stress in most people, may be counterproductive in addressing high collective narcissists’ responses to threat to the in-group’s image.

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This work was supported by the Polish National Science Centre advanced research grant Maestro [2017/26/A/HS6/00647] awarded to dr Agnieszka Golec de Zavala.


Collective narcissism; intergroup exclusion; aggression; emotional distress; heart rate variability; mindfulness

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10 October 2020Submitted
30 March 2021Accepted
15 June 2021Published Online
September 2021Published

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07 Apr 2021 13:03

Last Modified:

11 Aug 2021 13:52

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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