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How do rejection experiences influence the interpretation of messages in people with high self-esteem versus people with low self-esteem? The present study examined the relationship between self-esteem, rejection experiences, and whether self-esteem levels buffer against lasting mental anguish caused by rejection. It was hypothesized that people with low self-esteem who have experienced a rejection experience will interpret an ambiguous message more negatively and will be more likely to interpret the message as threatening, whereas people with high self-esteem who have experienced a rejection experience will interpret an ambiguous message more positively and will be less likely to interpret the message as threatening. First, participants completed the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965), the Rejection Sensitivity Questionnaire (Downey & Feldman, 1996), and the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (Raskin & Terry, 1988) to provide baseline measures. Next, each participant was randomly assigned to one of three tasks: writing about a past experience of rejection (rejection condition), writing about a past experience of acceptance (acceptance condition), or ordering a list of social topics by their preference to write about each one (control condition). Finally, participants read emotionally positive, negative, and neutral/ambiguous emails, ostensibly written by another person, and evaluated whether they perceived the text to be emotionally positive or negative, as well as their perceptions of the writer. These emails were written to imply that the sender and recipient had gone out to dinner together and the sender responded in each email differently. Results from data analysis are forthcoming. It is important to find connections between variables like self-esteem and rejection sensitivity and determine under which circumstances people carry rejection experiences into other aspects of life to predict subsequent influence of rejection.

Publication Date

4-17-2013

Project Designation

Honors Thesis

Primary Advisor

Erin O'Mara

Primary Advisor's Department

Psychology

Keywords

Stander Symposium poster

The influence of self-esteem level on interpretation of ambiguous stimuli after a rejection experience

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