Purdue News

November 29, 2005

Warm up holiday season by shrugging off cold shoulder

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Holiday Grinches who exclude themselves from parties or gift exchanges may be doing so in self-defense, pre-empting the possibility that family and friends will ignore or disappoint them, says a Purdue University social psychologist.

In doing so, however, these Grinches only increase their chances of being excluded, says Kipling D. Williams, a professor of psychological sciences who studies ostracism.

"During the holidays there are high expectations about getting together with family, celebrating with friends and gift-giving at the office or with neighbors," he says. "As a result, people are more sensitive. They may avoid or not reply to phone calls from friends or develop a negative attitude, all in an effort to make being ostracized less hurtful, but more inevitable."

Williams says that because expectations are high during the holiday season, people should try to be aware of neighbors, friends or co-workers who may be overlooked when making holiday plans.

The "cold shoulder" or "silent treatment" can cause emotional or physical harm by activating the part of the brain that detects pain, Williams says.

"Unfortunately, family members provide some of the most hurtful examples of ostracism," he says. "For instance, I have seen sisters who haven't talked to each other for 10 years or adult children who avoid their parents. That's unhealthy for everyone. Instead, people need to mend relationships with relatives and make it clear that you are a family."

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, (765) 494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: Kipling Williams, (765) 494-0845, kip@psych.purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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