No one likes to be chosen last, and no one likes rejection – no research required. But how rejection affects people – particularly minorities – is a topic worthy of serious study.

It is a topic Prasant Dubey, ’10, has known he wanted to study since elementary school.

“My interest in social exclusion actually started on the basketball court when I was younger and captains would pick teams,” said Dubey. “There was always someone left out. You know you don’t want to be in their position, but someone will always be excluded. Sometimes I was that person picked last, which was hard.” 

As a leadership studies major and economics minor at Richmond who served as president of the South Asian Student Association and men’s club volleyball, he began to realize that rejection and social exclusion might have far-reaching ramifications for certain groups of people as well as whole organizations. 

“It is my hope that if we see the different degrees of how people respond to rejection, maybe we can buffer some of that,” Dubey said.

He decided to devote his senior honors thesis in leadership studies to rejection and race at the suggestion of his adviser, Dr. Crystal Hoyt, a social psychologist and associate professor of leadership studies.

For Dubey it was the perfect combination of his multidisciplinary academic interests as well as his personal interests.

Dubey, who was born in India and moved to Richmond at age 3, remembers how some people reacted to him after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

“People were ignorantly telling me to go back to Pakistan, based on the color of my skin,” he said. “Studying race relations has become increasingly important in the vast and diverse global society that we now live in. Because the need to interact with and understand one another is crucial in a highly globalized world, it is necessary to assess the potential detrimental effects of exclusion and how social group membership impacts those effects.”

For the study he asked black and white male subjects to participate in a study addressing rejection. Subjects were “rejected” by persons of their own race and by persons of a difference race and then were tested for responses and attitudes.

The research showed that rejection by someone in another racial group appears to activate race-related stereotypes. When black participants were rejected by a member of another race, they failed to perform as well on a cognitive task. White participants who were rejected by a member of another race, however, performed better.

Dubey’s research earned him the 2010 Fredric M. Jablin Award for Undergraduate Research, which recognizes outstanding student work.

“Without this research I wouldn’t have been able to explore something that has been so personal to me,” said Dubey, who will attend law school in the fall.

Hoyt has high praise for the study and for his dedication and approach.

“This is ambitious research and an ambitious study,” she said. “That Prasant is doing this kind of work as an undergraduate is a testament to his dedication and considerable skills. It’s important work and easily the kind of study you would find a graduate student doing.”