Eye Rolling: A Health Hazard? (Part 1)

Be honest, admit it. Someone on a team that you belong to was behaving in their usual irritating way. Fed up and annoyed, you looked at another colleague and rolled your eyes. No big deal, just a spontaneous and totally harmless venting of authentic feelings.

But if Dr. Kipling Williams of Purdue University were in the vicinity, he’d be rushing into the scene, eager to study that annoying person’s reactions to your eye rolling. He’d be examining their brain under a Functional MRI machine to check which parts got activated when that person was subjected to your eye rolling. And he’d administer tests to trace your behaviour’s exact impact on that person.

And here’s the fascinating part: Dr. Williams, a leading researcher on Ostracism, will later be able to show you how the person’s dorsal anterior cingulated cortex (dACC) got fully activated in reaction to your eye rolling. If someone banged their finger with a hammer, that’s exact dACC brain area would get fired up.  He’ll relay that the tests demonstrate a statistically significant reduction in that person’s sense of self-worth. Even more interesting, he’ll note a significant drop in the person’s finger temperature. (It is no coincidence that we use terms like “out in the cold” or “receiving the cold shoulder” to describe the experience of rejection.)

In short, research will demonstrate that the experience of ostracism has significant mental and physical health implications.

Next week: Dr. Williams’ fun and compelling experiments on Ostracism (or: if your brain were put under an MRI while you experienced a seemingly inconsequential and exclusion, what would the MRI results show?)


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