Why do people need self-esteem? Converging evidence that self-esteem serves an anxiety-buffering function

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1992 Dec;63(6):913-22. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.63.6.913.


Three studies were conducted to assess the proposition that self-esteem serves an anxiety-buffering function. In Study 1, it was hypothesized that raising self-esteem would reduce anxiety in response to vivid images of death. In support of this hypothesis, Ss who received positive personality feedback reported less anxiety in response to a video about death than did neutral feedback Ss. In Studies 2 and 3, it was hypothesized that increasing self-esteem would reduce anxiety among individuals anticipating painful shock. Consistent with this hypothesis, both success and positive personality feedback reduced Ss' physiological arousal in response to subsequent threat of shock. Thus, converging evidence of an anxiety-buffering function of self-esteem was obtained.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Arousal
  • Attitude to Death
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Personality Development
  • Self Concept*