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Rejection Stroop DemoVPT demo

Here are some resources that might be interesting and useful to you.


Rejection Stroop Demonstration

The Rejection Stroop is a task used to measure how much rejection and acceptance information interferes with cognitive processes in people with low and high self-esteem.

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Visual Probe Task (VPT) Demonstration

The Visual Probe task is a task used to measure people's attentional bias for rejection and acceptance information. It is based on the time participants take to respond to either the " : " probe or the " .. " probe.

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Finding a Psychologist:
We are hopeful that our self-esteem games will eventually be able to help people by boosting their self-esteem. Self-esteem is very complex, though, and people can be helped immensely by consulting a qualified psychotherapist. Here are some links to help you locate a psychologist:

    Background theory from academic research on self-esteem

    The topic of self-esteem is surprisingly complex. Not all psychologists are even in agreement on what self-esteem IS, let alone where it comes from or how to improve it. Still, there is much we have learned from decades of research on this topic. Here are a few basic ideas drawn from the social psychological research literature about self-esteem.

    What is self-esteem?
    Generally speaking, a person’s level of self-esteem is seen as the person’s attitude toward him or herself. It is thought to include feelings (e.g., of self-liking and pride versus self-dissatisfaction and shame) as well as thoughts about the self (e.g., views of oneself as worthy and capable, or evaluations of one’s talents versus shortcomings). People with relatively “high” self-esteem are generally secure in their own self-worth, and hold an attitude of self-respect and self-confidence. People with relatively “low” self-esteem are less secure, are unsure about their worth and sometimes are quite negative in their view of themselves. There are several ways to measure self-esteem that we and other psychologists use in our research. The most straightforward way, though, is just to ask someone, "Do you have high self-esteem?" Your answer to that question is a pretty good indication of your self-esteem.

    Are there different "types" of self-esteem?
    There are a few distinctions, among different “types” of self-esteem, to consider. For example, sometimes a person’s feeling of self-worth is highly conditional, or contingent, on some valued (often culturally-valued) trait like being attractive, or athletic, or successful at business (e.g., “I am worthy because I am so successful”). When self-esteem is highly conditional in this way it is often unstable -- that is, you might feel great about yourself when you succeed or you think about your best qualities, but really bad about yourself when you fail in some way. This type of self-esteem is usually contrasted with true or authentic self-esteem, which is rooted in self-acceptance that is not based entirely on specific talents. Very conditional self-esteem is often thought of as a kind of defensive self-esteem, which covers over or compensates for some underlying insecurity (in fact, some highly conceited, arrogant, or narcissistic individuals may actually be trying to make up for an inner feeling of unworthiness). Indeed, another important distinction is between explicit and implicit self-esteem: Explicit self-esteem includes a person’s conscious sense of self-esteem (that is, the thoughts and feelings the person is aware of), whereas implicit self-esteem involves a person’s self-reactions that occur outside of awareness. Even though implicit self-esteem occurs outside of awareness, it can influence related phenomena such as anxiety in social situations, persistence at tasks, reactions to failure, and more.

    What thought processes underlie self-esteem?
    Low self-esteem is maintained by several habits of thought. Focusing attention on negative self-aspects, constantly comparing oneself against perfectionistic or unreachable standards, and overgeneralizing from single negative events to draw broad negative conclusions about oneself, can lead to feelings of low self-esteem. These kinds of thoughts are closely tied to expectations about social relationships, for instance the anticipation that others will be rejecting or critical. Ironically, these kinds of negative expectancies can lead people to try to avoid rejection by withdrawing from the very people who care about them and do in fact accept and appreciate them.

    In contrast, higher levels of self-esteem are maintained by different habits of thought. People with high self-esteem focus their attention on positive self-aspects and positive feedback from others. When they think of one of their weaknesses or failures they balance it out by thinking of things that they like about themselves. True high self-esteem is rooted in the sense that one’s deepest and most authentic self is securely accepted by others, particularly by the significant or important others in the person’s life. This feeling may be based in current relationships, or may be based in earlier experiences of being loved and respected by another. In fact some researchers have argued that this sense of being securely related to others, along with feeling competent and self-directed, is the important thing: high self-esteem may just be a signal that these needs are being met, rather than something to be pursued for its own sake.

    In general, then, one's feelings of esteem can come from conscious, deliberate thoughts as well as "gut feelings" that come from automatic, unconscious thoughts processes.

    Is it possible to change unhelpful habits of thought?
    The habits of thought that underlie low and high self-esteem often occur quickly and automatically, without much conscious deliberation. A person may just find their attention drawn to certain kinds of information, or they may draw biased interpretations of ambiguous events, or they may selectively remember only certain types of information. Sometimes people’s habits of thought tend to focus on negative information and interpretations, producing low or insecure self-esteem. Psychotherapy often involves trying to modify these habits of thought - many of which have been learned through a lifetime of experience - through becoming aware of them, examining them carefully at a conscious level, and learning new ways of thinking about self and social relations.

    In our research, we have asked whether it might be possible to modify thought processes more directly, at the automatic level. Two habits of thought that we have been working to modify are implicit self-associations and attentional bias for rejection. As you may have seen in the WHAM! Self-esteem Conditioning game, our research shows that acceptance information can be conditioned to personal information in order to create a more secure and positive "gut feeling" of self-esteem. In EyeSpy: The Matrix game, certain peoples' habit to look for rejection (called attentional bias for rejection) can be modified by teaching them to ignore rejection. Our hope is that these kinds of repetitive games can eventually be developed even further to create powerful interventions to help people modify their automatic thoughts about themselves.

    As we said at the beginning, self-esteem is extremely complex!

    Some relevant references from the literature on self-esteem:

    Baumeister, R.F. (Ed.) (1993). Self-esteem: The puzzle of low self-regard. New York: Plenum Press.

    Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I, & Vohs, K. D. (2003). Does high self-esteem cause better performance, interpersonal success, happiness, or healthier lifestyles? Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 4, 1-44.

    Farnham, S.D., Greenwald, A.G., & Banaji, M.R. (1999). Implicit self-esteem. In D. Abrams & M.A. Hogg (Eds.), Social Cognition and Social Identity, Blackwell, London.

    Kernis, M. H. (Ed.), Efficacy, agency, and self-esteem. New York: Plenum.

    Leary, M. R., & Baumeister, R. F. (2000). The nature and function of self-esteem: Sociometer theory. In M. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 32, pp. 1-62). San Diego: Academic Press.

    Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Griffin, D. W. (2000). Self-esteem and the quest for felt security: How perceived regard regulates attachment processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 478-498.

    Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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