Most people intuitively know that victims of bullying experience pain, but researchers have found that the brain looks as if the body has felt physical pain when someone is socially rejected.

If you go

The public is welcome to attend, on a space-available basis, screenings of the documentary “Reject.” The most limited seating will be the screening at Cinebarre. Those interested in attending any screening should RSVP by e-mailing and writing “GENERAL PUBLIC” in the subject line.

Jan. 26 at 4 p.m. at Cinebarre, 963 Houston-Northcutt Blvd., Mount Pleasant

Jan. 27 at 3 p.m. at The Citadel’s Jenkins Hall, Room 101, 171 Moultrie St., Charleston

Jan. 28 at 4 p.m. at Academic Magnet High School, 5109-A West Enterprise St., North Charleston

The Citadel

A new documentary, “Reject,” takes a deeper look into the science behind social rejection, and its director soon will visit Charleston to screen and discuss the film.

“Even for people who are engaged in this conversation, there’s new information and there’s new science for them to consider,” said Ruth Thomas-Suh, the movie’s director.

Thomas-Suh and social psychologist Kip Williams, who is known for his research on ostracism, will present the film in three showings that will be hosted by The Citadel’s Department of Psychology. Professor Steve Nida, who heads the department, said the psychology department tries to present a major lecture or symposium annually as part of its community service.

“There are a lot of us who believe it’s important to enhance the public’s awareness of this kind of behavior and its potential consequences,” Nida said.

Nida and other Citadel faculty have been doing research on ostracism and social rejection for years, mostly among middle school students. They have found strong connections between ostracism and indicators of depression, and they developed a scale that can be used with children to identify whether they’re experiencing or having problems with ostracism and bullying.

Some of The Citadel’s research has involved Williams, who Nida has known since graduate school. They see isolation, ostracism and bullying as varying forms of social rejection.

Thomas-Suh said she wanted to make a film that explored the science behind social rejection, and that desire was inspired by a book her father, a psychiatrist, wrote on that subject.

The film uses two personal stories of social rejection that are weaved around scientific narratives. One of those personal stories ends in suicide, while the other sees a positive transformation. “Reject” offers one possible solution by showing how one school has prevented children from ostracizing others.

“It’s a huge topic, but there is a universal truth that we tried to capture,” Thomas-Suh said.

Other documentaries, such as The BULLY Project, have explored similar issues, and Nida said what makes “Reject” unique is that it puts an emphasis on the science behind these kinds of behaviors and how those might be prevented, he said. It’s also different in its focus on ostracism and social rejection, he said.

“The motivation is similar (to bullying), but the behavior themselves are different and the dynamics of the behavior are different.”

Thomas-Suh and Williams will talk to the audience after the screenings, and Thomas-Suh described conversations as “usually organic and goes where people want it to go.” She hopes that “Reject” raises awareness and prompts viewers to action.

“There’s information that each and every one of us can use in families and offices and schools,” she said. “Our goal for the film is that this information becomes part of the (discussion) on emotional health and violence.”

Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.