515 citations of an article in 5 years – it is timely to revisit “Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion” by Eisenberger in Science magazine. I was refered to that study by “Lob der Schule” (an excellent book).
Participants were scanned while playing a virtual ball-tossing game in which they were ultimately excluded. Paralleling results from physical pain studies, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) was more active during exclusion.
A wide variety of studies with animal as well as human subjects demonstrate that pain often gives rise to an inclination to hurt an available target, and also, at the human level, that people in pain are apt to be angry.
So, the final aggression of the victim is used to further isolate it – a vicious circle.
The facts seem to be now largely accepted, see an article in Psychology Today: Is Social Pain Real Pain? and the 2012 review by Eisenberger. More recently some authors even think that “The salience of self, not social pain, is encoded by dorsal anterior cingulate and insula“.