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Problem-Focused Content in the Job Search: Two Tests of the Cognitive-Emotional Theory of Esteem Support Messages



The Cognitive-Emotional Theory of Esteem Support Messages posits that messages intended to enhance recipients' state self-esteem focus on cognitions and/or behaviors. In the current studies, problem-focused message content (i.e., content focused on enacting behavior to alleviate the esteem threat) was of particular interest. College students (Study 1, n= 227) applying for postgraduation jobs and unemployed, underemployed, and/or displaced workers recruited from a government one-stop career center (Study 2, n = 292) rated esteem support messages varying in degree of focus on behaviors vs. cognitions relevant to the job search process. Messages focused on behavior were rated as less effective than those focusing on cognitions relevant to the esteem threat, although support for this result was stronger in Study 2.