Research Article: Holding soft objects increases expectation and disappointment in the Cyberball task

Date Published: April 23, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Toshiki Ikeda, Yuji Takeda, Mariella Pazzaglia.


When a person is excluded from a group, she/he often experiences negative emotions, referred to as social pain. Previous studies have reported that touching/holding soft objects can lead to a decrease of negative attitude toward uncertain events, and it is possible that such physical intervention may also be effective for reducing social pain induced by the group exclusion. This study examines the effects of holding soft objects on social pain. Participants held either a soft or hard cushion while performing the Cyberball task, a virtual ball-tossing game that experimentally controls social exclusion. In addition to the subjective rating of social pain, we measured the contingent negative variation (CNV) of event-related potentials, a variable related to perceivers’ expectations about forthcoming events. Results showed that, contrary to our prediction, holding a soft cushion increased the subjective rating of social pain. Furthermore, holding a soft cushion increased the amplitude of CNV while performing the Cyberball task. These results suggest that holding soft objects increases expectations about uncertain forthcoming events, but it does not reduce negative emotion.

Partial Text

Humans are social animals. We need to interact with each other to survive. Indeed, a person who is excluded from a group may often experience negative emotion and is likely in the future to avoid interacting with the other members of the group, resulting in social disadvantages. Exploring the factors affecting negative emotions elicited by social exclusion is important to understand the nature of social pain.

Due to a high number of artifacts in the EEG, one male participant (21 years old) was excluded from the analyses. Thus, we used the data from 24 participants.

The purpose of the current study was to investigate the effects of holding soft objects on participants’ emotion during the Cyberball task. To this end, we measured variations of the participants’ subjective ratings of social pain and also the amplitudes of CNV and P3 components, while the participants held soft/hard cushions. The results showed that the subjective rating scores of social pain and the amplitudes of CNV were greater when participants held the soft cushion than when they held the hard cushion, irrespective of the fair-play/exclusion conditions. Interestingly, no effect of the cushion was found in P3.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.