This is the worst type of break-up, according to science

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Susan Devaney
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Break-ups are hard. Rejection is even harder – especially if it’s due to your partner finding someone else.

According to a new study from Cornell University, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, being rejected by someone who flat-out picks someone else over you hurts a lot more than someone who just rejects you.

Looking closely at two types of rejection, scientists conducted four experiments on 600 people. As reported by Time, in the first experiment men were placed into a group with two women who were secretly working with the researchers. One woman was selected to solve a puzzle and given the option of picking a partner to help her. Sometimes she chose the other woman, sometimes she opted to work on her own.

The other three experiments tested how people reacted in larger groups. Subjects were then asked to recall times when they’d felt rejected and then imagine being rejected in various scenarios. Every experiment resulted in people feeling more hurt after being rejected in favour of another person.

“This may be because such rejections lead to an increased sense of exclusion and decreased belonging,” the authors of the study concluded.

Additionally, when people in the study weren’t given a valid reason as to why they were rejected, they tended to make the assumption it was because of someone else coming into the picture – and then they’d try to find out more information (well, you would, wouldn’t you?).

Overall the study found people felt a lot better when they learned they hadn’t been rejected for another person. The authors of the study believed the reason for this to be because when someone else is introduced into the situation it can feel like a “double rejection”.

While the study related to rejection in general rather than focusing in on romantic relationships, it’s fair to say the results ring true for many situations in life, including love – and if this is how we deal with rejection generally, we’re bound to have the same reactions when it comes to emotional connections.

So while rejection is awful, no matter how it happens, at least one type appears to be easier to bounce back from than the other, eh?

Images: Naomi August / Tristar


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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.