Date of Submission
Conigrave, J. (2018). The benefits of believing you can change: implicit malleability theories moderate the relationship between low self-esteem and negative outcomes (Thesis, Australian Catholic University). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.26199/5c8f29b660986
There are at least two ways to combat the negative effects of low self-esteem: directly improve people’s self-esteem, or to decouple the link between low self-esteem and negative outcomes (Hayes & Ciarrochi, 2015). Incremental theories are implicit beliefs that people’s attributes are malleable. In this thesis I argue that subscription to these beliefs may help combat the negative effects of low self-esteem. Incremental theories make individuals less likely to make trait attributions as a result of failure and so may prevent low-self-esteem from occurring in response to failure. Incremental theories may also make people less likely to treat negative self-evaluations as truths that permanently define them, thus decoupling the link between low self-esteem and negative outcomes. In study 1, I conducted a systematic review to examine the link between incremental theories and self-concept. I synthesize the results of 34 studies and found that incremental theories and self-esteem were modestly correlated (r = .16; 95% CI [0.11, 0.2]). In study 2 and 3, I examined the extent that perceptions of self-malleability moderated the link between self-esteem and negative outcomes. I surveyed 489 Australian female high school students (age: M = 14.7; SD = 1.5) and a representative sample of 7,884 adult Americans of both genders (age: M = 47.9; SD = 16; 52.5% female) respectively. Moderation analyses in both samples showed that the links between low self-esteem and negative outcomes (lower wellbeing and achievement) were weaker for those with stronger incremental theories. While in those with high self-esteem there was little difference in wellbeing and achievement regardless of the level of incremental theories; in those with low self-esteem strong incremental theories had substantially higher levels of wellbeing and achievement. People are likely to experience fluctuations in self-esteem due to success, failure, and social rejection. Incremental theories may help people respond to low self-esteem in more adaptive ways resulting in improved wellbeing and achievement.
Institute for Positive Psychology and Education
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Faculty of Health Sciences
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