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Neural and behavioral social-cognitive processes underlying (persistent) victimization
PhD ceremony:Ms S. (Sanne) Kellij
When:June 08, 2023
Supervisors:prof. dr. D.R. (René) Veenstra, prof. dr. B. Guroglu
Co-supervisor:dr. G.M.A. Lodder
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Behavioural and Social Sciences
I see, I see what you don't see

This dissertation examined social cognitive aspects that possibly contribute to the continuation of victimization experiences. Being bullied has long-term consequences, such as lower mental health, lower academic achievement, and weaker social skills, which are more pronounced for chronic victims. An overview of previous research showed that victimization relates to more negative interpretations of (social) situations, such as interpretation of being rejected or mean intentions of the other. Furthermore, victims have less positive opinions of peers and the social climate. However, longitudinal studies and studies examining attention toward social cues were lacking. Hence, the first empirical study in this dissertation examined emotion processing. No associations of (prolonged) victimization and attentional bias towards emotions were found, nor with underlying differential neural processing. Second, associations between victimization and rejection sensitivity were examined over time. Overall, children with more victimization experiences were more rejection sensitive. However, no evidence was found that individual changes in rejection sensitivity were followed by individual changes in victimization, nor the other way around. Last, exclusion in an online ball-throwing-game was examined. Everyone experiences a dip in mood when excluded. However, children with more intense victimization experiences over the past two years had stronger intentions to punish excluders. Victims seemed to have stronger insula/IFG activation during social exclusion, indicating that it might be a more negative experience for them requiring more cognitive control. Taken all results together, (persistent) victims appear to have a more negative social-cognitive style, which is particularly reflected in interpretation of and responses to social cues.