Exploring the accuracy of highly positive self-evaluations: A bogus pipeline examination of fragile self-esteem

Erin Michele Myers

Abstract

The present study tested the prediction that individuals with fragile high self-esteem are engaging in impression management when they claim to possess highly positive feelings of self-worth. Phase One participants (N = 449) completed Internet-based measures of self-esteem level and self-esteem fragility under standard conditions. Phase Two participants (N = 75) completed laboratory-based measures of self-esteem under control or 'bogus pipeline' conditions designed to encourage participants to respond more honestly to questionnaires concerning their self-worth. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed partial support for the impression management hypothesis such that individuals with discrepant high self-esteem (i.e., high explicit self-esteem and low implicit self-esteem as measured by the Name-Letter Task) reported lower levels of explicit self-esteem under bogus pipeline conditions. The impression management hypothesis was not supported for an alternate measure of implicit self-esteem (i.e., Implicit Association Test) or for the two other markers of self-esteem fragility included in the study (i.e., contingent self-esteem and self-esteem instability). The discussion will focus on the implications of the present findings for the current conceptualization of fragile high self-esteem.