The Two-Sided Nature of Social Rejection
The Responsive Theory of Social Exclusion (Freedman, Williams, & Beer, 2016) suggests that there are three main types of social exclusion (i.e., explicit rejection, ambiguous rejection, ostracism), and that both people involved in the social exclusion will fare better if explicit rejection is used. Furthermore, this theory argues that the language of explicit rejection is an important yet understudied aspect of social exclusion, and that the linguistic choices made in a rejection can influence both parties. My research on language and social rejection has found that rejections that include apologies increased hurt feelings and aggression more than rejections without apologies. Furthermore, rejections with apologies were more likely to make targets feel compelled to forgive but not more likely to actually feel forgiveness than rejections without apologies (Freedman, Burgoon, Ferrell, Pennebaker, & Beer, 2017). My other work on rejection examines why individuals engage in rejection outside of the context of bullying with a special interest in how social pressures may motivate rejection. In addition, I examine different forms of rejection such as ghosting (Freedman, Powell, Le, & Williams, 2018) and the personality variables associated with different rejection decisions. Finally, I also consider how biases are involved in the rejection process. For example, how are male versus female rejectors viewed?
Game and Narrative Interventions
I use the unique tools of games, play, and narratives to change how people think and to transform their interactions with others (Freedman & Flanagan, 2018). My work on interventions mainly focuses on how to create games and narratives to decrease biases against women in science, technology, engineering, and math (Freedman, Green, Flanagan, Fitzgerald, & Kaufman, 2018). Using both paper-based games and digital games, I conduct interventions on male and female adolescents and adults. For example, one game intervention was a paper-based mystery game in which participants could only win by realizing that a scientist character in the game was a woman (Freedman, Seidman, Flanagan, Kaufman, & Green, 2018). In another experiment, a digital game with a female protagonist allowed participants to conquer gender-bias-related obstacles. In addition to my work on gender biases, I have also begun to explore interventions designed to decrease loneliness in the elderly, which ties my two lines of research together.