Images of the self and self-esteem: do positive self-images improve self-esteem in social anxiety?
Negative self-images play an important role in maintaining social anxiety disorder. We propose that these images represent the working self in a Self-Memory System that regulates retrieval of self-relevant information in particular situations. Self-esteem, one aspect of the working self, comprises explicit (conscious) and implicit (automatic) components. Implicit self-esteem reflects an automatic evaluative bias towards the self that is normally positive, but is reduced in socially anxious individuals. Forty-four high and 44 low socially anxious participants generated either a positive or a negative self-image and then completed measures of implicit and explicit self-esteem. Participants who held a negative self-image in mind reported lower implicit and explicit positive self-esteem, and higher explicit negative self-esteem than participants holding a positive image in mind, irrespective of social anxiety group. We then tested whether positive self-images protected high and low socially anxious individuals equally well against the threat to explicit self-esteem posed by social exclusion in a virtual ball toss game (Cyberball). We failed to find a predicted interaction between social anxiety and image condition. Instead, all participants holding positive self-images reported higher levels of explicit self-esteem after Cyberball than those holding negative self-images. Deliberate retrieval of positive self-images appears to facilitate access to a healthy positive implicit bias, as well as improving explicit self-esteem, whereas deliberate retrieval of negative self-images does the opposite. This is consistent with the idea that negative self-images may have a causal, as well as a maintaining, role in social anxiety disorder.
School of Psychology, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK.
SourceCognitive behaviour therapy 41:2 2012 pg 163-73
Pub Type(s)Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't