The Role of Implicit Mechanisms in Buffering Self-Esteem from Social Threats

The Role of Implicit Mechanisms in Buffering Self-Esteem from Social Threats

Jordan B. Leitner (University of Delaware, USA) and Chad E. Forbes (University of Delaware, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0159-6.ch044
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Previous research has demonstrated that people have the goal of self-enhancing, or viewing themselves in an overly positive light. However, only recent research has examined the degree to which the relationship between self-enhancement goals and outcomes are a result of explicit deliberative mechanisms or implicit automatic mechanisms. The current chapter reviews evidence on unconscious goal pursuit, autobiographical memory, social neuroscience, and implicit self-esteem that suggests that implicit mechanisms play a powerful role in producing self-enhancement outcomes. Furthermore, this chapter reviews evidence that these implicit mechanisms are activated by social threats and thus contribute to successful coping. Finally, the authors discuss the implications of implicit self-enhancement mechanisms for targets of stigma, individuals who frequently encounter threats to well-being.
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Explicit Self-Enhancement Outcomes

Previous work has demonstrated that explicit self-enhancement outcomes are evident in perceptions of autobiographical events, current abilities, and predicted life outcomes (Taylor & Brown, 1988). For example, individuals report more internal and global attributions for positive outcomes than negative outcomes (Alicke, 1985; Campbell & Sedikides, 1999; Mezulis, Abramson, Hyde, & Hankin, 2004), consider scientific research less credible if it implies they are susceptible to a disease (Kunda, 1987), and are unrealistically optimistic about future events (Puri & Robinson, 2007; Weinstein, 1980). Demonstrating that these outcomes emerge in domains where self-assessment accuracy is critical, students consistently underestimate the time necessary to complete academic tasks (Bueler, Griffin, & Ross, 1994), and surgical residents are overly confident in their ability to diagnose medical conditions that they fail to detect in X-rays (Oksam, Kingma, & Klasen, 2000).

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