Jodene R. Baccus & Mark W. Baldwin
McGill University, Montreal (QC), Canada




Identity is socially constructed in dialogue with, or based on feedback from, others. The present study examines this from a social cognitive point of view, exploring the idea that both the representation of self and other are integral to the understanding of self-esteem. Implicit self-esteem is an automatic evaluation of the self that guides spontaneous reactions to self-relevant stimuli. Specifically, low implicit self-esteem is an unconscious representation of the self as negative. Implicit self-esteem is uncorrelated with explicit self-esteem such that an individual self-reporting high self-esteem can exhibit low self-esteem on various implicit measures (e.g. Implicit Attitudes Test, Name Letter Task). Using a classical conditioning procedure, half of the participants engaged in a game-like computer task where self-relevant information (e.g. name, birthday) was repeatedly paired with a 'positive other' (i.e. a photograph of a smiling face). The self-relevant information of participants in the control condition was randomly paired with approving, disapproving, and neutral faces. Results showed that participants' implicit self-esteem increased following the experimental task. This effect was most pronounced for those who exhibited both explicit and implicit low self-esteem prior to the study. These results suggest that a positive representation of other can lead to a more positive representation of self.