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Keywords:

  • self-esteem;
  • self-image goals;
  • entitlement;
  • rewards;
  • food;
  • sex;
  • money;
  • friends;
  • alcohol

Abstract

Many people ascribe great value to self-esteem, but how much value? Do people value self-esteem more than other pleasant activities, such as eating sweets and having sex? Two studies of college students (Study 1: N=130; Study 2: N=152) showed that people valued boosts to their self-esteem more than they valued eating a favorite food and engaging in a favorite sexual activity. Study 2 also showed that people valued self-esteem more than they valued drinking alcohol, receiving a paycheck, and seeing a best friend. Both studies found that people who highly valued self-esteem engaged in laboratory tasks to boost their self-esteem. Finally, personality variables interacted with these value ratings. Entitled people thought they were more deserving of all pleasant rewards, even though they did not like them all that much (both studies); and people who highly value self-esteem pursue potentially maladaptive self-image goals, presumably to elevate their self-esteem (Study 2).