The Influence of Self-Esteem on Reactions to Challenge and Threat
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Abstract Stress has been described as a universal phenomenon, which results in distressing experiences that ultimately influence our behaviours. Whenever individuals encounter an event, they make an appraisal and may perceive that event as threatening, challenging or benign. While challenge perceptions are associated with pleasure and potential for gain, threat appraisals are related to negative emotions and potential for harm or loss. An individuals self-esteem (their own perception of their self-worth) may influence their responses to events appraised as a threat or challenge. The present study tested the hypotheses that in the presence of a threatening task, higher self-esteem would act as a buffer against negative outcomes (i.e., anger and anxiety), and as a boost towards positive outcomes (i.e., vigor and absorption) in response to a challenging task. Challenge and threat appraisals were manipulated in undergraduate university students in anticipation of a speech task, and self -esteem was assessed with Rosenbergs scale (1965). The results of hierarchical multiple regression analysis did not support the hypotheses, however additional multiple regression analysis revealed that those with higher self-esteem who were led to view the task as a challenge assessed the task as less threatening than those with lower self- esteem. Limitations and future directions of the current study are discussed.