Interpersonal evaluations following threats to self: Role of self-esteem

Todd F. Heatherton, Kathleen D. Vohs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


In 2 studies, the authors used dyadic interactions to assess the influence of ego threat on likability as a function of self-esteem. In both studies, 2 naive participants engaged in a structured conversation; in half of the dyads, 1 participant received an ego threat prior to the interaction. In the 1st study, threatened high self-esteem participants were rated as less likable than were threatened low self-esteem participants. The 2nd study confirmed that ego threats are associated with decreased liking for those with high self-esteem and with increased liking for those with low self-esteem. A mediational analysis demonstrated that decreased liking among high self-esteem participants was due to being perceived as antagonistic. Study 2 also indicated that the findings could not be explained by trait levels of narcissism. These patterns are interpreted in terms of differential sensitivity to potential interpersonal rejection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)725-736
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2000
Externally publishedYes


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