Williams explores the psychology behind the behavior of both the target and the source of ostracism, first with narrative accounts and then through a myriad of research studies. The first two chapters describe the impact of ostracism within relationships, including the short-term and long-term consequences of its habitual use. Many targets spontaneously comment that other forms of punishment, including physical abuse, would be preferable to being ignored. One target's story is summarized as follows: "I wish he would've beaten me instead of giving me the silent treatment, because at least it would have been a response. This has ruined my life…. It's the meanest thing that you can do to someone, especially since it doesn't allow you to fight back."