Rejected people more likely to volunteer

People who are rejected may be more likely to volunteer or give to a worthy cause, new findings have suggested. Published in the Journal of Consumer Research, the study also found individuals who feel ignored might indulge in conspicuous consumption.

Authors of the report noted the need to belong is a universal theme that crosses all cultures - but explained people behave differently when they experience social exclusion.

According to the findings, individuals who see their self-esteem or sense of belonging threatened may counter this by acting and thinking in a more pro-social and affiliative manner.

The authors - from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and the University of Texas at San Antonio - observed this reaction can help people reconnect with society and bolster their interpersonal attractiveness.

They found those who felt ignored preferred notable clothing makes, adding: "In contrast, being rejected increased pro-social behaviour, but had no effect for clothing with conspicuous brand logos."

Dr Ruth Lowry, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "Among the primary motives for volunteering, individuals cite self-esteem enhancement (feeling better about yourself), a sense of belonging and greater skill competence (employability). 

"Therefore it makes sense that those with low self-esteem or in threatening situations would seek belonging and acceptance within the community - [with] volunteering providing the perfect vehicle to do so.

"Volunteering is often seen as a positive means of giving back to a community but the gains to the individual are also powerful - studies have cited the potential to enhance the social integration of isolated groups including the homeless and those with psychological disorders. 

"An interesting study is that of Steffen et al in The Social Science Journal, 2209, [which] reported the longitudinal results of people who had volunteered at the World Trade Centre in the wake of 9/11. 

"They found that by offering assistance, individuals felt less victimised by the attacks and a greater sense of healing by feeling more integral to their communities. These individuals also reported greater community involvement in the years following the disaster."

Hi Jeannette

Thank you for your comments.

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By stating that “rejected people are more likely to volunteer”, the title of this article could in itself be damaging on the recruitment of and the self-esteem of volunteers. In 2009-10, 40 per cent of adults volunteered formally at least once in the 12 months prior to interview, with 25 per cent having volunteered formally at least once a month [1]. Although I agree with Dr Ruth Lowry in that "Volunteering is often seen as a positive means of giving back to a community but the gains to the individual are also powerful" I hope none of the 40 per cent of the UK population mentioned above feel disheartened if reading this article! Having worked with many voluntary organisations, and been a volunteer myself, I would suggest that the gains to the individual are secondary to the primary reason why they volunteered. I do not know any volunteers who would suggest that they volunteered just to boost their self-esteem.

1. Citizenship Survey: 2009-10 - Communities and Local Government, downloaded: 25/04/13