I have been try­ing to un­der­stand this sen­tence, but it is a lit­tle too com­pli­cated for me to un­der­stand:

In­di­vid­u­als ap­pear to have a knee-jerk re­flex­ive re­ac­tion to be­ing ex­cluded and ig­nored that seems to by­pass in­for­ma­tion that should log­i­cally di­min­ish its im­por­tance or rel­e­vance.

I don’t know what that and its are sup­posed to re­fer to. Does it mean the same thing as this:

by­pass in­for­ma­tion that (in­for­ma­tion) should log­i­cally di­min­ish its (in­for­ma­tion) im­por­tance or rel­e­vance"

Based on the way it is writ­ten, I as­sume both that and its re­fer to in­for­ma­tion. How­ever, I still don’t un­der­stand the mes­sage be­hind the sen­tence:

in­for­ma­tion should log­i­cally di­min­ish its im­por­tance or rel­e­vance.

Here’s the whole para­graph, which is a sum­mary of a sci­en­tific ar­ti­cle:

Al­most two decades of em­pir­i­cal so­cial psy­cho­log­i­cal re­search on os­tracism, ex­clu­sion, and re­jec­tion have been very fruit­ful and en­light­en­ing. Beyond the ob­vi­ous point that these are aver­sive in­ter­per­sonal be­hav­iors that cause dis­tress, we now know that (i) in­di­vid­u­als ap­pear to have a knee-jerk re­flex­ive re­ac­tion to be­ing ex­cluded and ig­nored that seems to by­pass in­for­ma­tion that should log­i­cally di­min­ish its im­por­tance or rel­e­vance, (ii) there is a close link be­tween phys­i­cal pain and so­cial pain, and (iii) sub­se­quent re­sponses to os­tracism may vary de­pend­ing on which need or needs the in­di­vid­ual is try­ing to for­tify. Thus, some os­tra­cized in­di­vid­u­als seek ap­proval whereas oth­ers seek re­venge.

  • 1
    The antecedent for its is meant to be being excluded and ignored: Individuals have a reaction to being excluded that seems to bypass information that would diminish being excluded's importance. The sentence doesn't make a whole lot of sense though; reactions don't bypass information—individuals do. In any case, it's trying to say that people are so worried about exclusion that they accidentally dismiss information that would make them less worried about exclusion. Feb 11, 2021 at 23:02
  • @KannE It is actually from onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1751-9004.2007.00004.x. The part I asked is from the summary at the end of the article.
    – henrycity
    Feb 12, 2021 at 11:10
  • @TinfoilHat Thanks, your way of paraphrasing makes it easier to understand for me!
    – henrycity
    Feb 12, 2021 at 11:11

2 Answers 2


Two points:

  1. Shockingly poor writing. The sentence is a complete mess.

  2. that refers to the information part. its is a reference to "being excluded and ignored". In other words:

Some individuals' knee-jerk reaction to being ignored or excluded keeps them from taking in information that might diminish the importance - or relevance - thereof (i.e. being excluded and ignored).

Something like that.

  • 3
    Oy, (knee-jerk = reflexive) reaction to being (excluded = ignored, almost). Feb 11, 2021 at 20:38
  • 1
    Thanks, I agree it was poor writing even though it is a published article. Now, I understand a bit better after realizing what it means. If I would write it, I would try to split that into 2 sentences. It could be difficult for me to understand what your "thereof" refers to if there wasn't "(i.e. being excluded and ignored)"
    – henrycity
    Feb 11, 2021 at 21:05

"that" introduces a clause that modifies information, specifically information that might soften the feeling of exclusion and of being ignored and prevent the knee-jerk reaction.

I believe that "its" then refers back to the feeling of being excluded and ignored.

  • 1
    If I get you right, softening and preventing mean the same as diminishing the importance or relevance. Also, what do you mean "introduces a clause that modifies information"? I haven't got your idea yet.
    – henrycity
    Feb 11, 2021 at 21:01
  • 1
    By softening I mean diminishing the negative feeling of exclusion or being ignored. If that negative feeling is sufficiently diminished, it might prevent the knee-jerk reaction. The word "that" signals a transition to a different clause, in this case a clause that modifies or elaborates on the kind of information.
    – gorlux
    Feb 11, 2021 at 22:31
  • 1
    Thanks for the helpful explanation!
    – henrycity
    Feb 12, 2021 at 11:17

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