FEBRUARY 27: COMPLEXITIES OF SELF-ESTEEM
- Why is self-esteem so complicated? Why can’t we just like ourselves & tell ourselves we are great &
leave it at that?
- Your perception of yourself is NOT a reflection of reality. Your perception of yourself is not
necessarily accurate/realistic. So where does it come from?
Self-esteem is more complex than just high versus low:
- High self-esteem can be truly “secure,” but may also be “defensive”
o Some people might look completely secure and truly be confident, while some people may
portray themselves as secure, but it is only a cover up.
- Maybe self-esteem has an implicit as well as explicit component.
Defensive vs. Secure Self-Esteem
- High self-esteem can be truly “secure,” but can also be “defensive”
o Contingent on successes, therefore often fragile and unstable?
o Defensiveness hostility, prejudice?
When there is a need to defend your abilities in order to feel good about yourself.
Trying to maintain an appearance of success may cause you to become hostile,
Kernis et al. (1989)
- IS self-esteem stable or not? Do we have a chronic self-esteem or not?
- Self-esteem measured with Rosenberg scale.
- Self-esteem instability measured through multiple assessments of Rosenberg scale on multiple days.
o Is everybody stable on their self-esteem? No! Some ppl have a stable self-esteem while others
have a self-esteem that fluctuates from day to day.
- Looked at hostility measure: how angry would you feel in response to various anger-arousing
- Results: Ppl with “defensive high” self-esteem (self-esteem that is high but unstable/fluctuating)
reported the most anger.
- Conclusion: There is more to self-esteem then whether it is high or low. It is not just the level of self-
esteem that is important, but also how dynamic it is. Individuals who fluctuate in their self-esteem
responded with the most anger.
- Might it make sense to examine implicit self-esteem, with characteristics of automaticity:
o Efficient, Unintended, Uncontrollable, Outside of awareness
- Can we look at self-esteem elements that have these characteristics and maybe that will tap into
something more profound than just whether self-esteem of a person is high or low?
Name Letter Task
- Please use the following scale & place your rating of each symbol in the box containing that
symbol. - How it works: By asking ppl to rate the letters of the alphabet, it is possible to tap into implicit
self-esteem by looking at whether they rate the letter with which their name begins low (low
implicit self-esteem) or high (high implicit self-esteem).
Implicit Association Task (IAT)
- This is the primary way of assessing ppl’s implicit attitudes.
- Ppl are given words & have to say if it is:
o ‘Not Self’ vs. ‘Self’
o ‘Good’ vs. ‘Bad’
o ‘Not Self or Bad’ vs. ‘Self or Good’
o ‘Not self or Good’ vs. ‘Self or Bad’
o When ppl have to put things together mentally that don’t fit together in their head, it becomes
harder to respond.
- Initial Results: implicit self-esteem does not correlate strongly with explicit self-esteem.
Usually btw 0 – 0.25
o Thought that maybe this is simply due to bad measurements.
o If they are meaningfully different, maybe they will correlate with different things?
E.g., Fazio et al – prejudice study.
Implicit attitude predicted certain kinds of attitudes, while explicit attitudes
predicted totally different attitudes.
Spalding & Hardin, 1999
- Measure implicit and explicit self-esteem separately (with reaction-time task).
- Subject was put through a self-relevant interview where they had to describe themselves and
- The idea was that even though implicit and explicit self-esteem may not correlate strongly with
each other, they might correlate more strongly with other variables.
- Could they predict things regarding SE in this self-relevant interview.
o Ppl with low explicit self-esteem reported feeling more anxious during the interview.