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Toward breaking the vicious cycle of low self-esteem with rejection-inhibiting attentional training

Self-esteem involves a variety of cognitive processes that help people perceive, interpret, and process social information. A central component of people's self-esteem is their sense of belonging and feelings of acceptance. It follows that people react strongly to social rejection and that being attuned to signs of real or potential social rejection can serve a self-protection function. However, being overly attuned and sensitive to social rejection can have a paradoxical effect, whereby aberrant attentional processes can contribute to the perpetuation of the vicious cycle of low self-esteem. The goal of the research presented in this dissertation was twofold: to investigate whether people with low self-esteem are more vigilant for rejection information, and to investigate whether a rejection-inhibiting attentional training task that reduces their vigilance for rejection can help buffer against social and performance threats. I hypothesized that people with low self-esteem are more vigilant for rejection information than for acceptance information. I also hypothesized that training people, particularly those with low self-esteem, to inhibit and disengage from rejection promotes effective regulation of emotions and has positive psychological, behavioural, and physiological effects. Results from the first study show that people with low self-esteem have a greater attentional bias for rejection than for acceptance information. Across 7 other studies, participants with low self-esteem trained to inhibit rejection with a specially designed attentional training task showed a lower rejection bias for rejection information, less feelings of rejection after overt rejection, and less ineffective persistence. Regardless of level of self-esteem, participants trained to inhibit rejection showed less interfering thoughts about rejection while working on a task, higher state self-esteem after having been rejected and experiencing failure, less stress about their final exam, increases in self-esteem and decreases in perceived stress after a stressful work week, lower levels of cortisol, and increases in sales performance. Following a vicious cycle framework of low self-esteem and social stress, these results show that attentional bias training can circumvent the experience of social stress and possibly break the vicious cycle of low self-esteem.
Date January 2007
CreatorsDandeneau, Stéphane Daniel Mulaire.
PublisherMcGill University
Source SetsLibrary and Archives Canada ETDs Repository / Centre d'archives des thèses électroniques de Bibliothèque et Archives Canada
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation
CoverageDoctor of Philosophy (Department of Psychology.)
Rights© Stéphane Daniel Mulaire Dandeneau, 2007
Relationalephsysno: 002665444, proquestno: AAINR38576, Theses scanned by UMI/ProQuest.

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