Research Publication Title

Self-Esteem Predicts Perceptions of Psychological Needs in Daily Events

Major

Psychology

Faculty Mentor

Whitney L. Heppner, Ph.D.

Keywords

Self-esteem, Psychological needs, Daily events, Contingent self-esteem, Global self-esteem, Positive events, Negative events

Abstract

Self-esteem is considered one’s global liking for self in terms of self-worth and self-respect, and this global self-esteem (SE) has been linked to various outcomes, including psychological well-being. While high (global) SE is thought to be protective during negative events, contingency of SE may make one vulnerable instead. However, both global SE and SE contingency may be related to positive reactions to and perceptions of positive events, providing validation of one’s positive self-feelings. Therefore, we examined the relationship between SE contingency, global SE, and reactions to positive and negative events. We focused on whether positive and negative events were perceived as affecting three psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. To examine this, we conducted secondary analysis on data gathered from 155 undergraduate students who completed this two-phase study. In phase 1, participants took surveys measuring various personality traits including level of self-esteem (RSE) and self-esteem contingency (CSE). In phase 2, participants recalled positive and negative daily events, recording their responses to them as well as daily emotional states. For negative events, we hypothesized high levels of CSE would predict perceiving negative events as psychological needs “threats,” (vulnerability to negative events), but high levels of RSE would not show this perceived threat effect. For positive events, we hypothesized both high levels of CSE and RSE would predict perceiving positive events as psychological needs “boosters” (capitalizing on the positive). Results partially supported our hypotheses. Participants with high CSE were more likely to perceive negative events as threats to competence and relatedness; however, high RSE showed similar patterns for negative events. CSE was not related to psychological needs in response to positive events, but RSE was to perceived competence “boost.” In sum, results suggest vulnerability to negative events for RSE and CSE, and little capitalization on positive events for perceived psychological needs satisfaction.

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Self-Esteem Predicts Perceptions of Psychological Needs in Daily Events

Self-esteem is considered one’s global liking for self in terms of self-worth and self-respect, and this global self-esteem (SE) has been linked to various outcomes, including psychological well-being. While high (global) SE is thought to be protective during negative events, contingency of SE may make one vulnerable instead. However, both global SE and SE contingency may be related to positive reactions to and perceptions of positive events, providing validation of one’s positive self-feelings. Therefore, we examined the relationship between SE contingency, global SE, and reactions to positive and negative events. We focused on whether positive and negative events were perceived as affecting three psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. To examine this, we conducted secondary analysis on data gathered from 155 undergraduate students who completed this two-phase study. In phase 1, participants took surveys measuring various personality traits including level of self-esteem (RSE) and self-esteem contingency (CSE). In phase 2, participants recalled positive and negative daily events, recording their responses to them as well as daily emotional states. For negative events, we hypothesized high levels of CSE would predict perceiving negative events as psychological needs “threats,” (vulnerability to negative events), but high levels of RSE would not show this perceived threat effect. For positive events, we hypothesized both high levels of CSE and RSE would predict perceiving positive events as psychological needs “boosters” (capitalizing on the positive). Results partially supported our hypotheses. Participants with high CSE were more likely to perceive negative events as threats to competence and relatedness; however, high RSE showed similar patterns for negative events. CSE was not related to psychological needs in response to positive events, but RSE was to perceived competence “boost.” In sum, results suggest vulnerability to negative events for RSE and CSE, and little capitalization on positive events for perceived psychological needs satisfaction.