The Influence of Self-Esteem on Reactions to Challenge and Threat

[Speaker] Maki, Kristen:1
[Co-author] Greenglass, Esther:1
1:York University (Canada)

Lazarus described stress as a 'universal' phenomenon resulting in a distressing experience that influences behaviours. People perceive events they encounter as threatening, challenging or neutral. While challenge perceptions are associated with pleasure and potential for gain, threat is related to negative emotions and potential for harm or loss. Self-esteem, people's perception of their self-worth, may influence their responses to threat and challenge. The present study tests the hypotheses that when self-esteem is high, it acts as a buffer of threat against negative outcomes i.e. anger and anxiety, and as a 'boost' of positive outcomes i.e. vigor and absorption in response to low challenge. An experiment was designed where challenge and threat appraisals in university students were manipulated and self -esteem was assessed with Rosenberg's scale. Analyses of variance results highlighted the role of self-esteem as a moderator of reactions to threat and challenge. Implications of the results are discussed.
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