Belongingness as a Core Personality Trait: How Social Exclusion Influences Social Functioning and Personality Expression


  • Note: Corrections added on 6 January 2012 after first publication online on 1 November 2011: The page number for this article should be Page 1281–1314 (not 979–1012), and have been corrected in the online version of this article.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to C. Nathan DeWall, 201 Kastle Hall, Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0044. Email:


People have a fundamental need for positive and lasting relationships. This need to belong is rooted in evolutionary history and gave rise to the development of traits that enable individuals to gain acceptance and to avoid rejection. Because belongingness is a core component of human functioning, social exclusion should influence many cognitive, emotional, and behavioral outcomes and personality expression. This article summarizes recent evidence that social exclusion causes an assortment of outcomes, many of which depend on whether the excluded can gain acceptance or forestall possible distress. It highlights common overlap in physical and social pain systems and how a physical painkiller can reduce the pain of social exclusion. Finally, it shows how social exclusion moderates the effects of traits on cognition, emotion, and behavior. To appreciate personality processes in social contexts, scientists should consider how people respond to social exclusion and how the need to belong influences personality expression.