Self-focused attention, self-esteem, and the experience of state depression


  • The authors thank Stephen G West and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on an earlier version of the manuscript We are indebted to the following students for their helpful assistance collecting the data Bob Audlev, Marlene O Hara, Fran Patraker Tom Urschel and Debbie Vickers In addition the first author gratefully acknowledges the University of Arizona for its research support

Requests for reprints and correspondence should be addressed to Joel Brockner, Graduate School of Business, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027


The present experiment explored the effect of self-focused attention and self-esteem on self-reported state depression Subjects completed a self-esteem scale before taking part in an exercise designed to induce either strong feelings of temporary depression (strong condition) or very mild feelings of temporary depression (weak condition) Before rating their mood, subjects waited for a short period either in the presence or absence of a mirror A significant Depression Manipulation × Mirror-No Mirror interaction effect emerged Subjects who waited in the presence of the mirror reported feeling more depressed in the strong condition and less depressed in the weak condition, relative to those who waited in the absence of the mirror Moreover, this interaction effect was mainly attributable to the low self-esteem participants, rather than to the medium or high self-esteem individuals Theoretical implications of these findings are discussed