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Self-esteem, self-complexity, and reactions to naturally-occurring events Chew, Barry


Prior research has established that individual differences in self-esteem moderate reactions to self-relevant events. Although all people generally favour positive outcomes to negative outcomes, low self-esteem (LSE) people exhibit more affective extremity in response to artificially-contrived events than high self-esteem (HSE) people. That is, LSE people exhibit more positive affective reactions to positive outcomes and more negative affective reactions to negative outcomes than HSE people. Two competing theoretical models have been proposed to account for the self-esteem differences in mood extremity in the laboratory setting—the defensive-styles hypothesis and the life-events composition hypothesis. Evidence from two studies, the Mood-Diary Study and the Role-Playing Study, provide support for the first hypothesis by demonstrating that (a) esteem-related differences in the cognitive interpretations and causal attributions for positive and negative self-relevant events exist for naturally-occurring events as well as laboratory-contrived feedback, (b) LSE subjects claimed that these events had a greater impact on their mood and that they considered them to be more personally important than did HSE subjects, and finally, (c) LSE subjects were more variable in their moods across time than their HSE counterparts. Although esteem-related differences in mood variability were predicted for both differences in the extremity and frequency of mood changes, the differences were obtained only on the frequency of change measure. Although the evidence for the defensive-styles model was substantial, there was also some evidence for the life-events composition model, which essentially postulates that the lives of HSE and LSE which essentially postulates that the lives of HSE and LSE individuals differed markedly. Finally, an exploratory investigation of the relationship between self-esteem, self-complexity, and mood indicated that the two individual difference variables were positively correlated and that both were related to the frequency of change in mood but not mood extremity.

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