Advertisement

Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 41–65 | Cite as

Maintaining One's Self-Image Vis-à-Vis Others: The Role of Self-Affirmation in the Social Evaluation of the Self

  • Steven J. Spencer
  • Steven Fein
  • Christine D. Lomore
Article

Abstract

Three studies examined how people maintain their self-images when they face threat to interpersonal aspects of the self. In Studies 1 and 2, we found evidence that low self-esteem people lower their estimates of their performance when they expect immediate feedback in order to protect themselves from the interpersonal threat inherent in such feedback, and that self-affirmation reduces this tendency among low self-esteem people. In Study 3, we found that when people are self-affirmed they are more likely to engage in upward social comparisons and less likely to engage in downward social comparisons. Together these findings suggest that people can cope with threats to interpersonal aspects of the self by affirming other important aspects of the self.

Keywords

Social Psychology Social Comparison Social Evaluation Interpersonal Aspect Downward Social Comparison 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

REFERENCES

  1. Allport, G. W., Vernon, P. E., & Lindzey, G. (1951). Study of values. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  2. Ammons, R. B., & Ammons, C. H. (1962). The quick test: Provisional manual. Psychological Reports, 11, 111-161.Google Scholar
  3. Baldwin, M. W., & Holmes, J. G. (1987). Salient private audiences and awareness of the self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 1087-1098.Google Scholar
  4. Bartholomew, K., & Horowitz, L. M. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults: A test of a four category model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 226-244.Google Scholar
  5. Baumeister, R. F. (1982). A self-presentational view of social phenomena. Psychological Bulletin, 91, 3-26.Google Scholar
  6. Baumeister, R. F. (1998). The self. In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), Handbook of Social Psychology (Vol. 1, 4th ed., pp. 680-740). New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  7. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachment as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497-529.Google Scholar
  8. Baumeister, R. F., Tice, D. M., & Hutton, D. G. (1989). Self-presentational motivations and personality differences in self-esteem. Journal of Personality, 57, 547-579.Google Scholar
  9. Berger, S. M. (1977). Social comparison, modeling, and perseverance. In J. M. Suls & R. L. Miller (Eds.), Social comparison processes: Theoretical and empirical perspectives (pp. 209-234). Washington, DC: Hemisphere.Google Scholar
  10. Berscheid, E., & Reis, H. T. (1988). Attraction and close relationships. In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), Handbook of Social Psychology (Vol. 2, 4th ed., pp. 193-281). New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  11. Brickman, P., & Bulman, R. J. (1977). Pleasure and pain in social comparison. In J. M. Suls & R. L. Miller (Eds.), Social comparison processes: Theoretical and empirical perspectives (pp. 149-186). Washington, DC: Hemisphere.Google Scholar
  12. Collins, N. L., & Miller, L. C. (1994). Self-disclosure and liking:Ameta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 116, 457-475.Google Scholar
  13. Davila, J., Burge, D., & Hammen, C. (1997). Why does attachment style change? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 826-838.Google Scholar
  14. Dodgson, P. G., & Wood, J. V. (1998). Self-esteem and the cognitive accessibility of strengths and weaknesses after failure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 178-197.Google Scholar
  15. Fein, S., & Spencer, S. J. (1997). Prejudice as self-image maintenance: Affirming the self through negative evaluations of others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 31-44.Google Scholar
  16. Ferrari, J. R. (1991). Self-handicapping by procrastinators: Protecting self-esteem, social-esteem, or both? Journal of Research in Personality, 25, 245-261.Google Scholar
  17. Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7, 117-140.Google Scholar
  18. Gibbons, F. X. (1986). Social comparison and depression: Company's effect on misery. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 140-148.Google Scholar
  19. Gibbons, F. X., & Boney-McCoy, S. (1991). Self-esteem, similarity, and reaction to active versus passive downward comparison. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 414-424.Google Scholar
  20. Gibbons, F. X., & Gerrard, M. (1989). The effects of upward and downward social comparison on mood states. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 8, 14-31.Google Scholar
  21. Gibbons, F. X., & Gerrard, M. (1991). Downward social comparison and coping with threat. In J. M. Suls & T. A. Wills (Eds.), Social comparison: Theory and research (pp. 317-345). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  22. Gilovich, T.,Kerr, M., & Medvec, V. H. (1993). Effect of temporal perspective on subjective confidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 552-560.Google Scholar
  23. Goethals, G. R., & Darley, J. M. (1977). Social comparison theory: An attributional approach. In J. M. Suls & R. L. Miller (Eds.), Social comparison processes: Theoretical and empirical perspectives (pp. 259-278). Washington, DC: Hemisphere.Google Scholar
  24. Hakmiller, K. L. (1966). Threat as a determinant of downward comparison. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology Supplement, 1, 32-39.Google Scholar
  25. Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 511-524.Google Scholar
  26. Heine, S., & Lehman, D. (1997). The cultural construction of self-enhancement: An examination of group serving biases. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 1268-1283.Google Scholar
  27. Holmes, J. G. (2000). Social relationships: The nature and function of relational schemas. European Journal of Social Psychology, 30, 447-495.Google Scholar
  28. James, W. (1910). Psychology: The briefer course. New York: Henry Holt.Google Scholar
  29. Josephs, R., Larrick, R., Steele, C., & Nisbett, R. (1992). Protecting the self from the consequences of risky decisions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62, 26-37.Google Scholar
  30. Kashima, Y., Yamaguchi, S., Kim, U., Choi, S., Gelfand, M., & Masaki, Y. (1995). Culture, gender, and self: A perspective from individualism collectivism research. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 69, 925-937.Google Scholar
  31. Kitayama, S., & Markus, H. R. (1999). Yin and Yang of the Japanese self: The cultural psychology of personality coherence. In D. Cervone & Y. Shoda (Eds), The coherence of personality: Socialcognitive bases of consistency, variability, and organization (pp. 242-302). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  32. Lee, A. Y., Aaker, J. L., & Gardner, W. L. (2000). The pleasures and pains of distinct self-construals: The role of interdependence in regulatory focus. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 78, 1122-1134.Google Scholar
  33. Lockwood, P., & Kunda, Z. (1997). Superstars and me: Predicting the impact of role models on the self. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 73, 91-103.Google Scholar
  34. Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98, 224-253.Google Scholar
  35. Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, self, & society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  36. Morse, S., & Gergen, K. J. (1970). Social comparison, self-consistency, and the concept of the self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 16, 148-156.Google Scholar
  37. Murray, S., & Holmes, J. G. (1993). Seeing virtues in faults: Negativity and the transformation of interpersonal narratives in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 707-722.Google Scholar
  38. Reis, T. J., Gerrard, M., & Gibbons, F. X. (1993). Social comparison and the pill: Reactions to upward and downward comparison of contraceptive behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 19, 13-20.Google Scholar
  39. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Schlenker, B. R. (1980). Impression management: The self-concept, social identity, and interpersonal relationships. Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.Google Scholar
  41. Shepperd, J. A. (1993). Student derogation of the Scholastic Aptitude Test: Biases in perceptions and presentations of college board scores. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 14, 455-473.Google Scholar
  42. Shepperd, J. A., & Arkin, R. M. (1989). Self-handicapping: The moderating roles of public selfconsciousness and task importance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 15, 252-265.Google Scholar
  43. Shepperd, J. A., Oullette, J. A., & Fernandez, J. K. (1996). Abandoning unrealistic optimism: Performance estimates and the temporal proximity of self-relevant feedback. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 844-855.Google Scholar
  44. Shrauger J. S., (1972). Self-esteem and reactions to being observed by others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 23, 184-191.Google Scholar
  45. Steele, C. M. (1988). The psychology of self-affirmation: Sustaining the integrity of the self. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (Vol. 21, pp. 261-302). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  46. Steele, C. M., Spencer, S. J., & Lynch, M. (1993). Self-image resilience and dissonance: The role of affirmational resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 885-896.Google Scholar
  47. Taylor, S. E., & Lobel, M. (1989). Social comparison activity under threat: Downward evaluation and upward contacts. Psychological Review, 96, 569-575.Google Scholar
  48. Taylor, S. E., Wood, J. V., & Lichtman, R. R. (1983). It could be worse: Selective evaluation as a response to victimization. Journal of Social Issues, 39, 19-40.Google Scholar
  49. Tedeschi, J. T. (Ed.). (1981). Impression management theory and social psychological research. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  50. Tesser, A. (1988). Toward a self-evaluation maintenance model of social behavior. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 21, pp. 181-227). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  51. Tesser, A., & Cornell, D. P. (1991). On the confluence of self processes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 27, 501-526.Google Scholar
  52. Wills, T. A. (1981). Downward comparison principles in social psychology. Psychological Bulletin, 90, 245-271.Google Scholar
  53. Wills, T. A. (1991). Similarity and self-esteem in downward comparison. In J. M. Suls & T. A. Wills (Eds.), Social comparison: Theory and research (pp. 51-78). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  54. Wood, J. V. (1989). Theory and research concerning social comparisons of personal attributes. Psychological Bulletin, 106, 231-248.Google Scholar
  55. Wood, J. V., Giordano-Beech, M., Taylor, K. L., Michela, J. L., & Gaus, V. (1994). Strategies of social comparison among people with low self-esteem: Self-protection and self-enhancement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 713-731.Google Scholar
  56. Wood, J. V., & Taylor, K. L. (1991). Serving self-relevant goals through social comparison. In J. M. Suls & T. A. Wills (Eds.), Social comparison: Theory and research (pp. 23-50). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven J. Spencer
    • 1
  • Steven Fein
    • 2
  • Christine D. Lomore
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyBronfman Science Center, Williams CollegeWilliamstown

Personalised recommendations