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Usman Qureshi

PSY 210: Developmental Psychology, Sec: 60510


Professor: Dr. Michael Benhar

Article Review: Exploding the Self-Esteem Myth


By:RoyF.Baumeister,JenniferD.Campbell,JoachimI.Krueger&KathleenD.
Vohs

The article exploding the self-esteem myth is about the idea of self-esteem and how it
affects the behavior and conduct of people. Self-esteem is a notion about how one feels and
views oneself, and in turn how that feeling makes one behave is the focus of the article.
The authors begin by showing the idea that in American culture much stress is put on the
idea of Self-esteem and the belief that high self-esteem leads to socially desirable and good
behavior. The idea being that good self esteem can correct many societal problems, from
poverty, crime and drug use. So ingrained is this idea in our culture that state leaders in
California decided to start a campaign in the 80s to boost the self-esteem of its citizens. They
thought that by increasing the self-image of people would lead to them becoming better
contributors to society and also reduce the number of societal ills. They even brought together a
group of scholars to research this idea. This group published a book in which the idea that low
self-esteem is the reason for all the bad things that go on in a citizenry and high self esteem
would correct this problem. However, this publication had little scientific evidence to support its
claims.
The preconceived notions of the relationship between self esteem and good behavior have
had little scientific research to test weather this notion is true or not. It is an assumption shared
in American culture. How can we justify agendas and programs to change peoples self esteem
without first knowing for sure if its a good thing to do in the first place. This article attempts to
explore our commonly held beliefs about self-esteem and test them against verifiable scientific
evidence to see whether or not such beliefs are justified. They do this by surveying many
studies.
One argument in favor of the California leaders and scholars who carried out their agenda
is that it is reasonable to assume that boosting people self image will lead to good conduct.

Because if people feel better about themselves then they wont do things to harm themselves and
try to do things to better themselves. Also, back in the 80s there wasnt a lot of studies done that
studied the relationship between self-esteem and behavior. But since then many studies have
been done and in this article the authors try to present the things that are in conformity to the
common sense view and what is not.
At the outset the article talks about some of the problems of gathering data about notions
of the self. In order to gather data on what people feel about themselves you have to ask them
directly. There is a limited amount of other objective ways to find out what people feel about
themselves other than asking them. This may be problematic because a person can lie about
what they feel or exaggerate and inflate what one says in contrast to what one actually feels.
They might want to make themselves look good and paint themselves in a favorable light and
cover up negative feelings. This does not mean that they have good self-esteem.
As an example many studies done was to measure the relationship between high selfesteem and good looks. At the outset these studies found that people with high self esteem also
feel they are very beautiful. This also seems like a reasonable hypothesis because good-looking
people get a lot of attention that could be a factor in raising self-esteem. But at the same time
these people could just be lying about themselves and/or exaggerating their thoughts.
A 1995 study done by a group of psychologists ventured to test this theory in which they
surveyed a large group of people by taking their pictures and presented it to a group of judges.
At the same time they asked the group to rate themselves in terms of beauty and self-image.
They then compared the ratings of the two groups and found a divergent view on what people
thought of themselves and what the judges thought. People who claimed to be attractive also
claimed to have high self-esteem but the judges did not think they were that attractive. The

correlation between self-image and attractiveness in this study was not present. This study
showed one of the flaws of using self-reporting to measure self-esteem and something desirable.
It proved that people do tend to exaggerate when reporting feelings about themselves.
In contrast other studies were done to test the commonly held notion of psychologists that
people with low self-esteem are prejudiced. Some studies done did show a correlation but a
study done by Jennifer Crocker challenged this assumption. Her studied showed that people
with high self-esteem are more prejudiced than people with low self-esteem. The problem with
earlier studies was the same flaw that the people examined used self-reports to reveal how they
felt about themselves and how they felt about others. And the reason that revealed the flaw is
that if people view themselves negatively then it should be no surprise that the view others in the
same way. This does not necessarily mean that they are racist. However, when people who view
themselves favorable and then view other people different than how they view themselves this
can show prejudiced.
In order to reduce the number of empirical flaws found in subjective studies the authors
set out to sift through many studies (15,000) to find ones that use objectively verifiable criteria.
Furthermore, another practical flaw found in many studies is the tendency to conflate correlation
with causation. Proving a causal link between two things is a difficult task especially when
dealing with social sciences. So, for psychologists to use increased amounts of objective
measures in contrast to subjective ones will yield to better results.
Studies done to test the relationship between academic performance and self-esteem was
one area in which objective measures were utilized. A study was done to test 23,000 high school
students first in the 10th grade and again in the 12th. They examined self-esteem levels in 10th
grade and academic performance in the 12th and academic performance in 10th grade compared to

self-esteem levels in 12th grade. They found that there is little correlation between the two.
Those students who performed well in the 10th grade did the same in 12th and those students who
had a certain self-esteem levels in one grade had the same level in the other. This shows a
consistency and maybe some minor correlation between academic progress in one grade and how
it relates to the other but it does not show that high self-esteem causes the other. The same was
true when studies were done to see if self-esteem leads to better job performance. Some minor
correlations do exist but no causal link does.
Another study that used objective criteria was to test the link between self-esteem and
good social relationships. People who regard themselves with high self-worth exclaim on being
very sociable and loveable by other people. To test this claim a group of psychologists surveyed
542 9th graders about their classmates who they liked and disliked. When compared to selfesteem scores of the kids asked about there was no connection. Similar studies showed the same
to be true for adults. When college students were asked to rate their roommates on five social
characteristics the results were divergent. The people who claimed to have high self-esteem had
an inflated view of how their roommates thought of them.
One study found that people with low self-esteem are mistrusting of others and fear
rejection. But, this does not mean that they are bad at keeping social ties. Actually, other studies
indicate that people with high self-esteem are more apt to cut off social contacts because they
just move on to find other friends when a conflict arises.