Social Acceptance and Rejection

Learn all about social acceptance and rejection in this interesting article!
Social Acceptance and Rejection

Last update: 13 May, 2021

Social acceptance and rejection influence your personality. This idea is based on the fact that, as a human, you’re a social being. Therefore, you try to establish interactions with others.

Your desire for acceptance and belonging is at the heart of your behavior. In fact, it’s likely that you often adjust your behavior so that others accept you. Similarly, you try to prevent your relationships from coming to an end, even if you have to pay a high price to maintain them.

Despite this, you’re rejected sometimes or feel that you are. Why does this happen? Where do these kinds of experiences stem from?

A distressed girl, maybe experiencing social rejection.

Experiencing social acceptance and rejection

Perhaps the best way to look at these subjective experiences is to place them along a continuum of “perceived relational value”. This concept is defined as the degree to which you believe that others consider your relationship with them to be valuable or important.

For example, if you perceive that your relational value to someone is high, you’ll feel accepted. On the other hand, you’ll feel a sense of rejection if you perceive that your relational value to someone is low.

Therefore, you’re working on the basis of subjective, internal, and personal experience. However, this bears little relation to the real degree of your social acceptance or rejection. Nonetheless, feeling valued increases your feelings of acceptance. For this reason, much of your behavior seeks to promote and maintain your relational value.

Measuring relational value

Experts have established a way to measure your relational value. This is called the sociometer theory. This theory proposes that you have a psychological system that tracks clues from the environment that are relevant to relational value. In other words, clues to acceptance and rejection.

It also alerts you when there are signs of low or declining relational value. Symptoms that would lead to negative moods and, consequently, reduced self-esteem.

An extension to the sociometer theory suggests that you also have a social monitoring system. This system responds when you’re concerned about your levels of acceptance and integration.

A greater need to belong increases your sensitivity to social information. This, in turn, helps you to deal with social contexts more successfully. You activate this system at times when you might feel concerned about social rejection.

In short, these systems:

  • Look for clues relevant to acceptance and rejection.
  • Alert you when it detects potential threats to your relational value.
  • Motivate the behaviors that protect or restore your relational value.
  • Increase your sensitivity to social information that’ll make you more likely to be accepted.

However, you won’t want to interact with and feel valued and accepted by everyone with the same intensity. It happens to a greater extent with people you’re attracted to.

A man comforting a woman.

Interpersonal attraction

Generally, interpersonal attraction involves your positive assessment of others and your desire to get closer to them. However, there’s no accepted definition of this term. One of the most influential definitions is that it’s an individual tendency or predisposition to evaluate another person in a positive or negative way.

The more positive your evaluation, the greater pull you experience towards them. The more negative your evaluation, the less attraction you feel. Experts consider attraction to be an attitude with cognitive, affective, and behavioral components. They’ve lately highlighted the emotional aspects. This suggests that attraction implies not just evaluation but also the desire to initiate contact and intimacy.

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Sociometer Theory: How Important Are Others’ Opinions of You?
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Sociometer Theory: How Important Are Others’ Opinions of You?

Sociometer theory is about a psychological mechanism that helps you minimize the likelihood of rejection. It's also closely related to self-control.



  • Psicología Social, Baron Robert A.
  • Fundamentos de Psicología Social, M. M. Miguel Carlos.