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. Hülya Aşçı, 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 December 22, 2014 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 December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) — Cambridge scientists have unravelled the genetic code of a rare tapeworm that lived inside a patient's brain for at least four year. Researchers hope it will present new opportunities to diagnose and treat this invasive parasite. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) — In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) — A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) — Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
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