Self-esteem moderates neuroendocrine and psychological responses to interpersonal rejection.
In this study, the authors investigated self-esteem as a moderator of psychological and physiological responses to interpersonal rejection and tested an integrative model detailing the mechanisms by which self-esteem may influence cognitive, affective, and physiological responses. Seventy-eight participants experienced an ambiguous interpersonal rejection (or no rejection) from an opposite sex partner in the context of an online dating interaction. Salivary cortisol was assessed at 5 times, and self-reported cognitive and affective responses were assessed. Compared with those with high self-esteem, individuals with low self-esteem responded to rejection by appraising themselves more negatively, making more self-blaming attributions, exhibiting greater cortisol reactivity, and derogating the rejector. Path analysis indicated that the link between low self-esteem and increased cortisol reactivity was mediated by self-blame attributions; cortisol reactivity, in turn, mediated the link between low self-esteem and increased partner derogation. Discussion centers on the role of self-esteem as part of a broader psychobiological system for regulating and responding to social threat and on implications for health outcomes.
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