The elusive importance effect: More failure for the Jamesian perspective on the importance of importance in shaping self-esteem

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Following William James (1890/1963), many leading self-esteem researchers continue to support the Individual-importance hypothesis—that the relation between specific facets of self-concept and global self-esteem depends on the importance an individual places on each specific facet. However, empirical support for the hypothesis is surprisingly elusive, whether evaluated in terms of an importance-weighted average model, a generalized multiple regression approach for testing self-concept-by-importance interactions, or idiographic approaches. How can actual empirical support for such an intuitively appealing and widely cited psychological principle be so elusive? Hardy and Moriarty (2006), acknowledging this previous failure of the Individual-importance hypothesis, claim to have solved the conundrum, demonstrating an innovative idiographic approach that provides clear support for it. However, a critical evaluation of their new approach, coupled with a reanalysis of their data, undermines their claims. Indeed, their data provide compelling support against the Individual-importance hypothesis, which remains as elusive as ever.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Journal Article

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