Looking Again, and Harder, for a Link Between Low Self-Esteem and Aggression


  • Ehri Ryu is now at Boston College.

concerning this article should be addressed to Brad J. Bushman, Ph.D., Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 426 Thompson Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. E-mail: bbushman@umich.edu.


ABSTRACT Recent field studies have revived the hypothesis that low self-esteem causes aggression. Accordingly, we reanalyzed the data from a previous experiment and conducted a new experiment to study direct physical aggression in the form of blasting a fellow participant with aversive noise. We also conducted a field study using a measure of indirect aggression in the form of a consequential negative evaluation. High narcissists were more aggressive than others but only when provoked by insult or humiliation and only toward the source of criticism. The combination of high self-esteem and high narcissism produced the highest levels of aggression. These results support the view of aggression as stemming from threatened egotism and are inconsistent with the hypothesis that low self-esteem causes either direct or indirect aggression.