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Self-Affirmation Theory

 

Explanations > Theories > Self-Affirmation Theory

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

This theory explains how people will reduce the impact of a threat to their self-concept by focusing on and affirming their competence in some other area. Knock my self-esteem in one area and I’ll try and compensate by thinking about another area.

Research

Steele et al. put science and business students into an situation where they chose favorite music albums, then later reviewed their list. Some were given lab coats. All increased their preference for their choice, except for the science students wearing lab coats, as these reminded them of their science persona where truth is more important than personal embarrassment.

Example

If you show me how I cannot sing, I’ll go and play guitar even more, which I know I am better at.

So what?

Using it

To get someone to do something, get them to think about it, then criticize their ability in another area.

Defending

Build your self esteem as a habit. Beware of those who knock your self-esteem (ask why they are doing it). 

See also

Cognitive Dissonance, Self-Completion Theory, Self-Verification Theory

References

Steele (1988), Steele, Hoppe and Gonzales (1986)

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