Characteristics of self-esteem and perceptual sensitivity to pictures of self and others

Zuber, Irena

Polish Psychological Bulletin, Vol 12(2), 1981, 97-105

ABSTRACT
1. Presents a typology of defensive self-esteem, based on the criterion of strength of social approval (D. Crowne and D. Marlowe, 1964) and experimental results obtained from 109 students (aged 18–19 yrs). Two types of self-esteem are distinguished: genuine and defensive, within both high and low self-esteem, yielding 4 self-esteem types. Two types of errors in recognition of the picture of self—misidentification of others as self (narcissistic projection) and delayed recognition of the picture of self (as a response to self-confrontation)—were expected to depend on self-esteem level, strength of social approval need, and on their interaction. The latter variables were also expected to influence perceptual vigilance toward pictures of disliked persons. Results indicate that the 3 effects were significantly affected by interaction between self-esteem level and strength of social approval need. Ss with defensive low self-esteem showed the strongest tendency to avoid self-confrontation and indicated the smallest sensitivity to the picture of disliked persons as compared to that of liked persons. Ss with genuine low self-esteem had the smallest tendency to avoid self-confrontation and were the only group displaying increased sensitivity to the picture of disliked persons. Ss with defensive high self-esteem had the strongest tendency to narcissistic projection; it was significantly stronger than that in Ss with genuine high self-esteem.