Self-esteem and reactions to feedback : theory, methodology, and empirical research
Despite a great deal of research in the area of self-esteem (SE) and the self-concept, important issues are yet to be resolved. How to define the self-concept and SE is one of these; the personality dynamics underlying reactions to feedback is another. This thesis is divided into two parts. In part I, issues in theory and measurement are discussed; the distinctions between self-concept, SE, and self-assessments are emphasised; and it is suggested that a limitation of much research on SE is its assumption that SE is a relatively unvarying personality trait. This assumption is tested in a number of studies, and found to be unsupported. In addition, an SE questionnaire is developed based on self-ideal discrepancies. Criticisms of this type of SE questionnaire are investigated and found to be empirically unjustified: for example, ideal scores do contribute significantly to the SE score. Part II tackles the issue of how people with varying levels of SE respond to evaluative feedback. The main theoretical perspectives (consistency, self-enhancement, esteem-protection and the non-motivational hypothesis) are discussed, and predictions derived from each are put to the test. Following Shrauger (1975) a classificatory scheme is proposed whereby affective reactions to feedback are hypothesized to be dominated by self-enhancement needs and non-affective reactions by self-consistency needs. An important modification is introduced which is that consistency needs will be overshadowed by esteem-protection needs when the costs to SE of being consistent are high. Two experiments using repeated trials with one using non-involved high SE and low SE observers, support this modification. A reconceptualization is offered, detailing predictions for three dichotomized independent variables (high vs low SE; positive vs negative feedback; high vs low cost) and a variety of dependent variables (both affective and non-affective). When tested against extant research, the reconceptualization is strongly supported.