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Withholding negative feedback: Is it about protecting the self or protecting others?

Authors

  • Carla H. Jeffries,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Psychology, The University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Australia
      Carla H. Jeffries, School of Psychology, The University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, QLD, 4350, Australia (e-mail: Carla.Jeffries@usq.edu.au).
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  • Matthew J. Hornsey

    1. School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
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Carla H. Jeffries, School of Psychology, The University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, QLD, 4350, Australia (e-mail: Carla.Jeffries@usq.edu.au).

Abstract

The reluctance to deliver negative feedback to someone's face is widely documented. This research disentangles the extent to which this reluctance is motivated by a desire to protect the self as opposed to others. Participants assessed an essay written by someone with high, medium, or low self-esteem. Assessment of the essay was most positive when the feedback was to be provided face-to-face, less positive when delivered anonymously, and least positive when it was not required to be delivered at all. This effect only emerged among participants low in self-liking (but was unrelated to self-competency). The self-esteem of the essay writer had no effect on evaluations. The data lend support for a self-protection motive and modest support for an other-protection motive.

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