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body satisfaction, body weight contingent self-worth, compensatory self-enhancement, rejection, self-affirmation, self-esteem
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Drawing upon the contingencies of self-worth and sociometer theories of self-esteem, these studies were devised to extend existing literature on the moderating effect of body weight contingent self-worth on the impact of interpersonal rejection on women’s body image evaluations. Two experimental studies were conducted. Study 1 was designed to assess the prediction that women with elevated body weight contingent self-worth would defensively self- enhance within the domain of body image in response to rejection. After completing an online survey comprised of covariate and moderator measures, female undergraduates (N = 159) attended the laboratory and were assigned to either a peer rejection or a neutral control condition, after which they completed explicit and indirect measures of body image evaluation. In line with expectations, women with higher body weight contingent self-worth reported significantly lower state body satisfaction and appearance self-esteem than did those lower in body weight contingent self-worth. Contrary to predictions, women higher in body weight contingent self-worth did not differ in their explicit reports of state body satisfaction or appearance self-esteem depending on experimental condition. Unexpectedly, virtue contingent self-worth was the only self-worth contingent domain to moderate the impact of rejection on women’s body image evaluations. Women with higher virtue contingent self-worth who experienced rejection reported significantly greater state appearance self-esteem relative to those who were not rejected. The lack of interactive effects between body weight contingent self-worth and rejection on body image evaluation was attributed to the possibility of an additional threat to body image posed by the presentation of candy. The unexpected moderating effect of virtue contingent self-worth on the impact of rejection was interpreted as defensive compensatory self-enhancement in the alternative domain of appearance. Study 2 was designed to determine whether providing women with an opportunity to self-affirm within an intrinsic and relational domain would ameliorate defensive self-enhancement following rejection. Following completion of an online survey comprised of covariate and moderator measures, female undergraduates (N = 105) attended the laboratory where they all were exposed to rejection, assigned to either a kindness self-affirmation or a neutral control condition, and completed explicit and indirect measures of body image evaluation. Contrary to predictions, body weight contingent self-worth did not moderate the impact of self-affirmation after rejection on explicit measures of state body satisfaction or appearance self-esteem. However, women with higher body weight contingent self-worth who self-affirmed following rejection reported significantly lower shape- and weight-based self-esteem relative to those who were rejected but unaffirmed. Unexpectedly, women who self-affirmed after rejection generally reported significantly lower state social self-esteem than did rejected but unaffirmed women. Supplementary analyses revealed that women with higher virtue contingent self-worth who self-affirmed following rejection demonstrated significantly lower state appearance self- esteem than did those who were rejected but did not self-affirm. This suggests that self- affirming a social and intrinsic domain following interpersonal rejection can draw attention to one’s shortcomings within the threatened domain, but that it also can improve the body image evaluations of women higher in body weight contingent self-worth and reduce defensive appearance self-enhancement for women with elevated virtue contingent self-worth. Together, these results expand upon past research on the impacts of interpersonal rejection and self-affirmation, and suggest that their effects on body image evaluation depend at least partially upon the domains on which women’s self-worth is most contingent.
O'Driscoll, Lauren M., "Interpersonal rejection and self-affirmation: The moderating effect of body weight contingent self-worth on women’s body image evaluation" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 7726.