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Need for Closure Can Magnify Emotional Effect of Ghosting

Author: University of Georgia
Author Contact:
Published: 15th Feb 2023
Peer-Reviewed Publication: Yes
Additional References: LGBT Divorce and Separation Publications

Summary: From close to ghost: examining the relationship between the need for closure, intentions to ghost, and reactions to being ghosted.



Ghosting, also known as simmering or icing, is a colloquial term describing the practice of ending all communication and contact with another person without any apparent warning or justification and ignoring subsequent attempts to communicate. People primarily ghost in relationships to avoid their emotional discomfort and are generally not thinking of how it will make the person they are ghosting feel.

Main Document

From Close to Ghost: Examining the Relationship Between the Need for Closure, Intentions to Ghost, and Reactions to Being Ghosted - Journal of Social and Personal Relationships

Odds are, you know someone who has been ghosted. And according to a new study from the University of Georgia, it can be a haunting experience.

A recent study by researcher and corresponding author Christina Leckfor and University of Mississippi researcher Natasha Wood found nearly two-thirds of participants have ghosted-ended a relationship by ignoring the other person without offering a clear explanation and have been ghosted.

And as online dating, dating apps, and other social technologies grow in popularity, so does the likelihood that someone is left on read after a few dates. Yet despite its frequent occurrence, little is known about why people ghost or the psychological effects of this social phenomenon.

"Ghosting is becoming a common strategy, and it creates an ambiguous situation where one party doesn't know what's going on," said Leckfor, a doctoral student in the UGA Department of Psychology. "We were interested in what individual differences or personal characteristics might influence a person's intentions to use ghosting. We also wanted to know if people with a high need for closure were less likely to use ghosting or if they would hurt more after being ghosted."

On the receiving end of a breakup, ghosting was a negative experience for almost all participants. But for individuals who yearn for closure, the negative effects of ghosting are even more profound.

To gauge the effect of a breakup, study participants reflected on a past relationship, either a time they were ghosted or directly rejected, and then answered questions about their psychological needs, satisfaction-feelings of belonging, self-esteem, control, and meaningful existence. Ghosted participants had some of the lowest needs satisfaction, meaning they were hit hardest by the rejection, and those who wanted closure reported even lower needs satisfaction.

"For recipients, desire for closure has this magnifying effect. When someone with a high need for closure recalled a time when they were ghosted or directly rejected, it hurt more than if they had a low need for closure," Leckfor said. "But they also felt more positive after recalling times when their partner acknowledged them."

In contrast, when someone considered initiating a breakup, the connection between closure and ghosting varied.

"We found that people with a higher need for closure were slightly more likely to intend to use ghosting to end a relationship," Leckfor said. "Even though things may be ambiguous on the recipient side, the ghosting person sees it as a distinct end to the relationship. Our study's results weren't definitive, but they pose an interesting avenue for future research."

And ghosting's not just for dating apps anymore. More than half of the study participants wrote about a time when they were ghosted by a friend rather than a romantic partner.

"The individuals who a friend ghosted reported feeling just as bad about the relationship as those who wrote about a time when a romantic partner ghosted them," Leckfor said. "In psychology, in general, much literature regarding adult relationships focuses on romantic relationships. This [research] shows that friendships are also significant to study."

It also relates to the role of technology in our relationships.

Several studies have shown how people initiate, maintain, and end relationships without technology. Still, those relationships can change as more human connectivity moves to social media, dating apps, texting, or Zoom. And individual traits, such as a need for closure, will factor into how we use those technologies.

"Now, almost everybody uses these technologies to communicate and maintain these different types of relationships," Leckfor said. "Knowing when these technologies can be helpful to build social connections or maintain your well-being, versus knowing when they might be harmful, is the end goal of what I hope my work in this area conveys to the public."

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Need for Closure Can Magnify Emotional Effect of Ghosting | University of Georgia ( makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.

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• (APA): University of Georgia. (2023, February 15). Need for Closure Can Magnify Emotional Effect of Ghosting. Retrieved April 13, 2024 from

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