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Interpersonal Functions of the Self-Esteem Motive

The Self-Esteem System as a Sociometer
  • Mark R. Leary
  • Deborah L. Downs
Part of the The Springer Series in Social Clinical Psychology book series (SSSC)

Abstract

In a discipline with few universally accepted principles, the proposition that people are motivated to maintain and enhance their self-esteem has achieved the rare status of an axiom. The notion that people want to think highly of themselves, behave in ways that promote self-esteem, and become distressed when their needs for self-esteem are unmet can be found in the writings of classic personality theorists (Adler, 1930; Allport, 1937; Horney, 1937; Rogers, 1959), contemporary social psychologists (Green-berg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986; Greenwald, 1980; Greenwald & Breckler, 1985; Steele, 1988; Taylor & Brown, 1988; Tesser, 1988), and clinicians (Bednar, Wells, & Peterson, 1989). The self-esteem motive has been invoked as an explanation for a wide variety of behaviors, including prejudice (Katz, 1960), self-serving attributions (Blaine & Crocker, 1993; Snyder, Stephan, & Rosenfield, 1978), reactions to evaluations (S. C. Jones, 1973), self-handicapping (E. E. Jones & Berglas, 1978), responses to counterattitudinal behavior (Steele, 1988), and self-presentation (Schlenker, 1980). Furthermore, low self-esteem has been linked to problems such as depression, alcohol abuse, suicide, and eating disorders, and high self-esteem has been implicated in good mental health (e.g., Baumeister, 1991; Bednar et al., 1989; Taylor & Brown, 1988). If previous theorists and researchers are correct in their claims, the need to protect and enhance one’s self-esteem constitutes an exceptionally pervasive and important motive.

Keywords

Social Psychology Social Anxiety Eating Disorder Social Exclusion Terror Management Theory 
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.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark R. Leary
    • 1
  • Deborah L. Downs
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWake Forest UniversityWinston-SalemUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyOhio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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