Final Report: Teagle Foundation Grant
Carolyn E. Gibson and Stephen L. Chew
Carolyn E. (Callie) Gibson and I were awarded the Teagle Grant in the Spring of 2010. We looked upon it
as an opportunity to pursue significant research on a fundamental problem within psychology. Callie
chose the problem of social rejection. At first blush, social rejection may not seem like a “big question”
but the research literature on it clearly shows that it is. A substantial and growing research literature
shows that social rejection and ostracism has significant negative effects on thought, emotion, and
behavior. Clearly, social acceptance is a fundamental human motivation. Evolutionary psychologists are
examining the role of social membership and rejection on species survival.
We began work in the summer of 2010 with Callie conducting an extensive literature review. Based on
that review, we developed an ambitious research project examining a gap in the research literature. The
bulk of the research had examined the impact of single, isolated cases of social rejection. We recognized
that typically there are multiple opportunities for acceptance or rejection, but no one had studied the
cumulative effects of successive acceptance or rejection. We also realized that the experimental
manipulations used in research were artificial. We wanted to develop a more naturalistic manipulation
of acceptance and rejection. To do so, we decided to create a set of videos depicting a students who is
interviewing for different organizations. In the videos, we could manipulate whether the interview was
by a group or by an individual, whether the student was accepted or rejected, and how prestigious the
Callie wrote the scripts for the videos, recruited the actors and created the videos during the summer
when she was in New Orleans. This was important because if Callie had waited until she returned to
Samford to create the videos, we would have had the problem of making sure that participants in the
study did not recognize any of the actors in the videos.
In the Fall 2010 semester, Callie obtained IRB approval to conduct the study. Finding enough willing
participants is always a problem in conducting psychological research at Samford. We decided to
streamline the design of the study to make sure we got enough participants in each condition. Callie ran
a total of 82 participants. Once data collection was complete, Callie began compiling the results.
Based on the importance of the research question and the quality of the design and method, I (SLC)
decided that we should submit the research for presentation at the conference of the American
Psychological Association (APA) , even though we had barely begun data analysis. I decided that the
project should be submitted as a professional paper rather than a student paper. Student papers are
submitted through Psi Chi, the psychology honor society, and they are all accepted without scrutiny.
Professional papers are subject to blind review. I prepared a summary of the research, indicating that
data analysis was still ongoing, and submitted it for review. The summary was evaluated by multiple
reviewers and was in competition with research conducted by faculty and researchers at other
institutions. Our research was selected for presentation. Callie will present the research this August at
APA in Washington, DC. The citation for the paper is:
Gibson, C. E., & Chew, S. L. (2011, August). Cumulative Consequences of Social Acceptance and Rejection
in a College Population. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association,
The final research report on the project has been submitted separately. (Click here for link.) If Callie
wishes, this report could be refined to be submitted to an undergraduate research journal such as the
Psi Chi Journal for Undergraduate Research. It is possible there may be a professional journal that might
consider it, but most journals require multiple studies for publication.
In my view, the project represents a novel and significant contribution to a “big question” in
human behavior. It points the way to a new research avenue in the study of social rejection. Callie did
tremendous work in putting the project together, including literature review, development of the
research question, design of the study, development of the research materials and method, data
collection and analysis and final report. It was both a learning experience and a major piece of research.
We really haven’t finished exploring all the implications of the data. The final paper only represents
some of the major findings. I don’t know if Callie wishes to pursue this research topic or not, but clearly
it has proved to be a productive line of work.