Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Popular psychology theories on self-esteem not backed up by serious research, study finds

Date:
March 2, 2011
Source:
University of Gothenburg
Summary:
Low self-esteem is associated with a greater risk of mental health problems such as eating disorders and depression. From a public health perspective, it is important for staff in various health-related professions to know about self-esteem. However, there is a vast difference between the research-based knowledge on self-esteem and the simplified popular psychology theories that are disseminated through books and motivational talks, reveals new research from Sweden.

Low self-esteem is associated with a greater risk of mental health problems such as eating disorders and depression. From a public health perspective, it is important for staff in various health-related professions to know about self-esteem. However, there is a vast difference between the research-based knowledge on self-esteem and the simplified popular psychology theories that are disseminated through books and motivational talks, reveals research from the University of Gothenburg.

Related Articles


Current popular psychology books distinguish between self-esteem and self-confidence. It is also believed that it is possible to improve self-esteem without there being a link to how competent people perceive themselves to be in areas they consider important.

This is in stark contrast to the results of a new study carried out by researcher Magnus Lindwall from the University of Gothenburg's Department of Psychology and colleagues from the UK, Turkey and Portugal.

"I think it's important that people have a more balanced idea of what self-esteem actually is," says Lindwall. "Our results show that self-esteem is generally linked most strongly to people's perceived competence in areas that they consider to be important."

The flip side is that the researchers show that people are most vulnerable to low self-esteem when they fail or feel less competent in areas that are important to them.

"Self-esteem is also closely linked to self-confidence and perceived competence in different areas, primarily those areas that a person considers to be important," says Lindwall.

The study builds on one of the dominant theories in the field, formulated over a hundred years ago by the American philosopher William James. It states that self-esteem is actually the result of perceived success, or competence, in an area relative to how important this area is.

The current study, involving 1,831 university students from the four countries, focuses specifically on self-perception of the body -- for example, how strong or fit the test subjects consider themselves to be and how attractive they believe their bodies to be.

"The results show that self-perception of the body, primarily in those areas that were considered to be important, is linked with general self-esteem," says Lindwall.

"In general, our study -- along with plenty of other research in the field -- paints a completely different and more complicated picture of self-esteem than that set out in best-selling popular psychology books," says Lindwall. "These books are often based on a person's own experiences and anecdotes rather than systematic research. Self-esteem is just not as simple as that, otherwise interest in the concept wouldn't be so great."

The results will be published in the Journal of Personality.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Gothenburg. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Magnus Lindwall, F. Hόlya Aşηı, Antonio Palmeira, Kenneth R. Fox, Martin S. Hagger. The Importance of Importance in the Physical Self: Support for the Theoretically Appealing but Empirically Elusive Model of James. Journal of Personality, 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2010.00678.x

Cite This Page:

University of Gothenburg. "Popular psychology theories on self-esteem not backed up by serious research, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110301091342.htm>.
University of Gothenburg. (2011, March 2). Popular psychology theories on self-esteem not backed up by serious research, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110301091342.htm
University of Gothenburg. "Popular psychology theories on self-esteem not backed up by serious research, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110301091342.htm (accessed January 25, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 23, 2015) — A Boston start-up is developing a wristband they say will help users break bad habits by jolting them with an electric shock. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

RightThisMinute (Jan. 23, 2015) — Not only is Kathy seeing her newborn son for the first time, but this is actually the first time she has ever seen a baby. Kathy and her sister, Yvonne, have been legally blind since childhood, but thanks to an amazing new technology, eSight glasses, which gives those who are legally blind the ability to see, she got the chance to see the birth of her son. It&apos;s an incredible moment and an even better story. Video provided by RightThisMinute
Powered by NewsLook.com
One Dose, Then Surgery to Test Tumor Drugs Fast

One Dose, Then Surgery to Test Tumor Drugs Fast

AP (Jan. 23, 2015) — A Phoenix hospital is experimenting with a faster way to test much needed medications for deadly brain tumors. Patients get a single dose of a potential drug, and hours later have their tumor removed to see if the drug had any affect. (Jan. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Bedtime Rituals For a Good Night's Sleep

The Best Bedtime Rituals For a Good Night's Sleep

Buzz60 (Jan. 22, 2015) — What you do before bed can effect how well you sleep. TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) has bedtime rituals to induce the best night&apos;s sleep. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins