Self-Enhancement Tendencies Among People With High Explicit Self-Esteem: The Moderating Role of Implicit Self-Esteem

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Consistent with recent research on initials-preferences, we assumed that people's preferences for their initials reflect an implicit form of self-esteem that buffers them against challenges to their self-worth. Accordingly, we proposed that high self-esteem persons who demonstrated weak initials-preferences would be particularly likely to engage in compensatory self-enhancement activities. Results of two studies revealed converging support for this prediction: Among people high in explicit self-esteem, those with weaker initials-preferences displayed more unrealistic optimism, stronger preferences for an excessively positive personality profile, and smaller actual-ideal self-discrepancies. Findings are discussed in terms of the distinction between secure high self-esteem—which is generally linked with psychological health—and fragile high self-esteem—which is generally associated with personal and interpersonal difficulties.

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Self and Identity, v. 2, issue 3, p. 169-187