Date of Award

Spring 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Psychological Sciences

First Advisor

Kipling D. Williams

Committee Member 1

William G. Graziano

Committee Member 2

Janice R. Kelly


Drawing from the temporal need-threat theory of ostracism (Williams, 2009), and uncertainty-identity theory (Hogg, 2007), I tested the hypothesis that ostracism increases interest in extreme groups. In a cross-sectional survey, Study 1 showed that chronic ostracism positively predicts interest in the Westboro Baptist Church, Mormonism, Scientology, and Alcoholics Anonymous. Study 2 established causal direction; relative to included participants, ostracized participants expressed greater willingness to attend a meeting of an extreme group following a recruitment attempt. Expressing a desire to attend meetings facilitated recovery of basic need satisfaction. Ostracism also induced self-uncertainty, but this did not mediate the effect. In an attempted replication involving no interpersonal contact, Study 3 failed to show differences in group interest as a function of ostracism. Studies 1 and 2 suggest that ostracism increases vulnerability to extreme group recruitment, and Study 3's failed results suggest that prior contact with a group member is a boundary condition.