Exploring a pathway to radicalization: The effects of social exclusion and rejection sensitivity

Emma A. Renström, Hanna Bäck, Holly M. Knapton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


This article aims to explore if social exclusion can constitute a pathway to radicalization, and if individual level of sensitivity of rejection moderates the effect of social exclusion. Humans innately seek belonging and meaning, and strive for re-establishing a sense of value and belongingness if faced with social exclusion. One way to achieve this is by adherence to a new and inviting group. In four studies, we test to what extent individuals who face social exclusion adapt to a radical including group. In Studies 1 (n = 104) and 2 (n = 308), we use a social media-like paradigm to manipulate social exclusion. In Study 3 (n = 1041), we use the so-called Cyberball paradigm, and in Study 4 (n = 40) we use a real-life manipulation. All studies show that rejected individuals who are sensitive to rejection are more prone to identify with, engage with and endorse an extreme group. The results hold over both ideological (Studies 1–3) and non-ideological (Study 4) content. Only the last study showed a main effect of social exclusion. We discuss the results in reference to the significance loss model of radicalization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1204-1229
Number of pages26
JournalGroup Processes and Intergroup Relations
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2020-Dec
Externally publishedYes

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Psychology (50101)


  • experiment
  • radicalization
  • rejection sensitivity
  • social exclusion


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