Ego threat elicits different social comparison processes among high and low self-esteem people: Implications for interpersonal perceptions

Kathleen D. Vohs, Todd F. Heatherton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations

Abstract

Two studies examined the effect of self-image threat on the use of social comparisons by those who have high and low trait self-esteem. In the absence of threat, trait high and low self-esteem people engaged in similar social comparison processes. When threatened, however, trait high self-esteem people made more downward social comparisons and trait low self-esteem people made more upward social comparisons. In Study 1, these effects were found for comparisons against an interaction partner and against generalized others. Study 1 also showed that state self-esteem rose among high self-esteem participants because they made downward social comparisons. Study 2 linked social comparisons to interpersonal likability and found that people with high trait self-esteem were liked less by perceivers when they made downward comparisons, whereas those with low trait self-esteem were liked more when they made upward comparisons. Discussion focuses on the interrelations among trait self-esteem, self-concept, and interpersonal perceptions in the context of self-defense.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)168-191
Number of pages24
JournalSocial Cognition
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2004

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