London - Giving someone the cold shoulder can end up making you feel decidedly sorry for yourself, a study has revealed.

Researchers believe we feel guilty and suffer from losing one of our social connections when we ostracise a friend.

They used a computer game to establish the psychological effects of exclusion.

Each volunteer had to throw a virtual ball to two other players.

They didn’t know the moves had been pre-programmed to make one person feel left out.

After the game, they had to fill in a survey designed to assess their feelings.

The results showed that being shunned, even by a faceless stranger, was upsetting.

But complying with the researchers’ instructions to ignore another person was equally disheartening.

Richard Ryan, from the University of Rochester, said: “In real life and academic studies, we tend to focus on the harm done to victims.

“This study shows that when people bend to pressure to exclude others, they also pay a deep personal cost. Their distress is different from the person excluded but no less intense.”

Lead author Nicole Legate said: “We are social animals at heart. We are typically empathetic and avoid harming others unless we feel threatened.”

Writing in the journal Psychological Science, she said their work is important because “pressure to exclude other people is all too common, particularly among young girls.”

Research has already shown that social isolation can have a similar effect on the brain to physical pain.

And being given the cold shoulder actually sends a chill through the body, making lonely people more likely to reach for a hot soup or coffee over a cold drink. - Daily Mail