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From vulnerability to resilience : multiple routes to social and self-acceptance as buffers of norm-based rejection sensitivity

People with high norm-based rejection sensitivity have heightened anticipatory anxiety and expectation of rejection if they do not follow norms. Under threats of rejection (e.g., when personal preferences collide with group norms), they are more intended to conform to group norms to avoid social rejection (Poon et al., 2010). Thus, they are more susceptible to peer pressure for risk-taking behaviors and have less autonomy to make decision. Research also indicates that they derive their self-worth from external sources such as success in academic and work settings (Yip et al., 2009). Thus, they experience elevated anxiety for uncertain outcome and decreased self-esteem following failure. The purpose of the present research is to examine strategies that can alleviate the negative impacts of norm-based rejection sensitivity.

Using a priming procedure, Study 1 experimentally examined the effects of promoting multiple routes to social acceptance. Participants of experimental group read stories of public figures who gained social acceptance through multiple routes such as ego strength and morals. Those stories reminded them that even if they did not follow group norms, they could still gain social acceptance through different virtues. After that, they indicated their reactions in some hypothetical scenarios involving threats of rejection and failure. As expected, those who read stories of public figures (vs. tourist spots) were less intended to conform under group pressure, more autonomous in deciding whether or not to conform, less anxious about the repercussions of non-conformity, and more inclined to expect social acceptance despite non-conformity.

Since participants who read stories of public figures may still base their self-worth on social acceptance, Study 2 aimed to remind them that others’ approval was not required for one’s self-acceptance. Using the same priming procedure as Study 1, participants of experimental group read life stories of ordinary people whose self-worth was not contingent on others’ approval. Those stories could remind them that others’ approval was not required for one’s self-acceptance. Results showed that participants of experimental group were less intended to conform, more autonomous, and less anxious about the repercussions of non-conformity. Furthermore, they reported less decline in self-esteem following social rejection.

In Study 2, those who learnt not to base their self-worth on others’ approval might be still susceptible to greater negative affect following failure in academic and work settings. Therefore, Study 3 went one step further to promote unconditional self-acceptance. Using the same experimental paradigm, participants of experimental group read a passage highlighting the idea that everyone is intrinsically valuable regardless of whether one is self-efficacious and popular. As expected, in additional to the aforementioned psychological benefits, participants being primed with unconditional self-acceptance were less anxious about failure, less likely to blame themselves for failure, and less likely to experience loss of self-worth following failure.

The three experiments shed lights on the psychological mechanisms through which multiple routes to social acceptance and self-acceptance temporarily alleviate the negative impacts of norm-based rejection sensitivity. Further studies can examine whether continuous acceptance-based and mindfulness-based interventions have long-term benefits for people with high norm-based rejection sensitivity. / published_or_final_version / Psychology / Doctoral / Doctor of Philosophy
Date January 2014
CreatorsYip, Wai-kin, 葉煒堅
ContributorsLam, SF
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Source SetsHong Kong University Theses
Detected LanguageEnglish
RightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works., Creative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License
RelationHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)

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