When ego threats lead to self-regulation failure: negative consequences of high self-esteem

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1993 Jan;64(1):141-56. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.64.1.141.


The tendency for people with high self-esteem to make inflated assessments and predictions about themselves carries the risk of making commitments that exceed capabilities, thus leading to failure. Ss chose their performance contingencies in a framework where larger rewards were linked to a greater risk of failure. In the absence of ego threat, Ss with high self-esteem showed superior self-regulation: They set appropriate goals and performed effectively. Ego threat, however, caused Ss with high self-esteem to set inappropriate, risky goals that were beyond their performance capabilities so they ended up with smaller rewards than Ss with low self-esteem. The results indicate the danger of letting egotistical illusions interfere with self-regulation processes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aptitude
  • Ego*
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Male
  • Personality Development
  • Self Concept*