Self-esteem, self-symbolizing, and academic recognition: behavioral evidence from curricula vitae

  • Weilong Bi
  • Ho Fai Chan
  • Benno TorglerEmail author


To provide new evidence on the empirically challenging aspect of measuring self-esteem, we collect written CV content from over 500 influential economics scholars and use such self-presentation modes as absolute and relative font sizes and typographic emphasis of author name on the CV’s front page to derive proxies for self-symbolizing behavior. Our analysis of these factors provides empirical support for the symbolic self-completion proposition that goal accomplishment reduces the need to self-symbolize. In particular, we find that receiving an education from a top 20 ranked university reduces the need to self-symbolize even when the scholars work for a non-top 20 university after earning the doctorate. On the other hand, major academic awards or honors do not seem to affect self-symbolizing behavior, which is also negatively correlated with activities having an external (e.g., policy-focused) social impact. Scholars with a higher h-index are also less inclined to self-symbolize, while being ranked in the Coupé top 1000 has no impact. Hence, despite some evidence of non-linearity, academic maturity shows a tendency (albeit not a robust one) to reduce the need to self-symbolize.


Self-esteem Self-symbolization Academia Performance Success Recognition 



Ho Fai Chan and Benno Torgler benefitted from support by the Australian Research Council (ARC), DP180101169.


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Economics and FinanceQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.CREMA, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the ArtsZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Centre for Behavioural Economics, Society and Technology (BEST), Queensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

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