The Self-Esteem Myth

Boosting people’s sense of self-worth has become a national preoccupation. Yet surprisingly, researchshows that such efforts are of little value in fostering academic progress or preventing undesirable behavior

By Roy F. Baumeister, Jennifer D. Campbell, Joachim I. Krueger and Kathleen D. Vohs

People intuitively recognize the importance of self-esteem to their psychological health, so it isn’t particularly remarkable that most of us try to protect and enhance it in ourselves whenever possible. What is remarkable is that attention to self-esteem has become a communal concern, at least for Americans, who see a favorable opinion of oneself as the central psychological source from which all manner of positive outcomes spring. The corollary, that low self-esteem lies at the root of individual and thus societal problems and dysfunctions, has sustained an ambitious social agenda for decades. Indeed, campaigns to raise people’s sense of self-worth abound.

Consider what transpired in California in the late 1980s. Prodded by State Assemblyman John Vasconcellos, Governor George Deukmejian set up a task force on self-esteem and personal and social responsibility. Vasconcellos argued that raising self-esteem in young people would reduce crime, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, school underachievement and pollution. At one point, he even expressed the hope that these efforts would one day help balance the state budget, a prospect predicated on the observation that people with high self-regard earn more than others and thus pay more in taxes. Along with its other activities, the task force assembled a team of scholars to survey the relevant literature. The results appeared in a 1989 volume entitled The Social Importance of Self-Esteem, which stated that “many, if not most, of the major problems plaguing society have roots in the low self-esteem of many of the people who make up society.” In reality, the report contained little to support that assertion.

The California task force disbanded in 1995, but a nonprofit organization called the National Association for Self-Esteem (NASE) has picked up its mantle, aiming (according to its mission statement) to “promote awareness of and provide vision, leadership and advocacy for improving the human condition through the enhancement of self-esteem.” Vasconcellos, now a California state senator, is on the advisory board.

Was it reasonable for leaders in California to start fashioning therapies and social policies without supportive data? Perhaps so. After all, practicing psychologists and lawmakers must deal with the problems facing them, even before all the relevant research is done. But one can draw on many more studies now than was the case 15 years ago, enough to assess the value of self-esteem in several spheres. Regrettably, those who have been pursuing self-esteem-boosting programs, including the leaders of NASE, have not shown a desire to examine the new work, which is why the four of us recently came together under the aegis of the American Psychological Society to review the scientific literature.

In the Eye of the Beholder
Gauging the value of self-esteem requires, first of all, a sensible way to measure it. Most investigators just ask people what they think of themselves. Naturally enough, the answers are often colored by the common tendency to want to make oneself look good. Unfortunately, psychologists lack any better method to judge self-esteem, which is worrisome because similar self-ratings of other attributes often prove to be way off. Consider, for instance, research on the relation between self-esteem and physical attractiveness.

Some findings even suggest that artificially boosting self-esteem may lower subsequent academic performance.

Several studies have explored correlations between these qualities, generally finding clear positive links when people rate themselves on both properties. It seems plausible that physically attractive people would end up with high self-esteem because they are treated more favorably than unattractive ones–being more popular, more sought after, more valued by lovers and friends, and so forth. But it could just as well be that those who score highly on self-esteem scales by claiming to be wonderful people all around also boast of being physically attractive.

In 1995 Edward F. Diener and Brian Wolsic of the University of Illinois and Frank Fujita of Indiana University South Bend examined this possibility. They obtained self-esteem scores from a broad sample of the population and then photographed everybody, presenting these pictures to a panel of judges, who evaluated the subjects for attractiveness. Ratings based on full-length photographs showed no significant correlation with self-esteem. Head-and-shoulders close-ups fared slightly better, but even this finding is dubious, because individuals with high self-esteem might take particular care to present themselves well, such as by wearing attractive clothing and jewelry. The 1995 study suggests as much: when the judges were shown pictures of just the participants’ unadorned faces, the modest correlation between attractiveness and self-esteem fell to zero. In that same investigation, however, self-reported physical attractiveness was found to have a strong correlation with self-esteem. Clearly, those with high self-esteem are gorgeous in their own eyes but not necessarily so to others.

This discrepancy should be sobering. What seemed at first to be a strong link between physical good looks and high self-esteem turned out to be nothing more than a pattern of consistency in how favorably people rate themselves. A parallel phenomenon affects those with low self-esteem, who are prone to floccinaucinihilipilification, a highfalutin word (among the longest in the Oxford English Dictionary) but one that we can’t resist using here, it being defined as “the action or habit of estimating as worthless.” That is, people with low self-esteem are not merely down on themselves; they are negative about everything.

This tendency has certainly distorted some assessments. For example, psychologists once thought that people with low self-esteem were especially prejudiced. Early studies, in which subjects simply rated groups to which they did not belong, seemingly confirmed that notion, but thoughtful scholars, such as Jennifer Crocker of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, questioned this conclusion. After all, if people rate themselves negatively, it is hardly proper to label them as prejudiced for rating people not like themselves similarly. When one uses the difference between the subjects’ assessments of their own group and their ratings of other groups as the yardstick for bias, the findings are reversed: people with high self-esteem appear to be more prejudiced. Floccinaucinihilipilification also raises the danger that those who describe themselves disparagingly may describe their lives similarly, thus furnishing the appearance that low self-esteem has unpleasant outcomes.

Given the often misleading nature of self-reports, we set up our review to emphasize objective measures wherever possible–a requirement that greatly reduced the number of relevant studies (from more than 15,000 to about 200). We were also mindful to avoid another fallacy: the assumption that a correlation between self-esteem and some desired behavior establishes causality. Indeed, the question of causality goes to the heart of the debate. If high self-esteem brings about certain positive outcomes, it may well be worth the effort and expense of trying to instill this feeling. But if the correlations mean simply that a positive self-image is a result of success or good behavior–which is, after all, at least as plausible–there is little to be gained by raising self-esteem alone. We began our two-year effort to sort out the issue by reviewing studies relating self-esteem to academic performance.

School Daze
At the outset, we had every reason to hope that boosting self-esteem would be a potent tool for helping students. Logic suggests that having a good dollop of self-esteem would enhance striving and persistence in school, while making a student less likely to succumb to paralyzing feelings of incompetence or self-doubt. Early work showed positive correlations between self-esteem and academic performance, lending credence to this notion. Modern efforts have, however, cast doubt on the idea that higher self-esteem actually induces students to do better.

Such inferences about causality are possible when the subjects are examined at two different times, as was the case in 1986 when Sheila M. Pottebaum, Timothy Z. Keith and Stewart W. Ehly, all then at the University of Iowa, tested more than 23,000 high school students, first in the 10th and again in the 12th grade. They found that self-esteem in 10th grade is only weakly predictive of academic achievement in 12th grade. Academic achievement in 10th grade correlates with self-esteem in 12th grade only trivially better. Such results, which are now available from multiple studies, certainly do not indicate that raising self-esteem offers students much benefit. Some findings even suggest that artificially boosting self-esteem may lower subsequent performance.

Even if raising self-esteem does not foster academic progress, might it serve some purpose later, say, on the job? Apparently not. Studies of possible links between workers’ self-regard and job performance echo what has been found with schoolwork: the simple search for correlations yields some suggestive results, but these do not show whether a good self-image leads to occupational success, or vice versa. In any case, the link is not particularly strong.

The failure to contribute significantly at school or at the office would be easily offset if a heightened sense of self-worth helped someone to get along better with others. Having a good self-image might make someone more likable insofar as people prefer to associate with confident, positive individuals and generally avoid those who suffer from self-doubts and insecurities.

People who regard themselves highly generally state that they are popular and rate their friendships as being of superior quality to those described by people with low self-esteem, who report more negative interactions and less social support. But as Julia Bishop and Heidi M. Inderbitzen-Nolan of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln showed in 1995, these assertions do not reflect reality. The investigators asked 542 ninth-grade students to nominate their most-liked and least-liked peers, and the resulting rankings displayed no correlation whatsoever with self-esteem scores.

A few other methodologically sound studies have found that the same is true for adults. In one of these investigations, conducted in the late 1980s, Duane P. Buhrmester, now at the University of Texas at Dallas, and three colleagues reported that college students with high levels of self-regard claimed to be substantially better at initiating relationships, better at disclosing things about themselves, better at asserting themselves in response to objectionable behaviors by others, better at providing emotional support and better even at managing interpersonal conflicts. Their roommates’ ratings, however, told a different story. For four of the five interpersonal skills surveyed, the correlation with self-esteem dropped to near zero. The only one that remained statistically significant was with the subjects’ ability to initiate new social contacts and friendships. This does seem to be one sphere in which confidence indeed matters: people who think that they are desirable and attractive should be adept at striking up conversations with strangers, whereas those with low self-esteem presumably shy away from initiating such contacts, fearing rejection.

One can imagine that such differences might influence a person’s love life, too. In 2002 Sandra L. Murray of the University at Buffalo and four colleagues found that people low in self-esteem tend to distrust their partners’ expressions of love and support, acting as though they are constantly expecting rejection. Thus far, however, investigators have not produced evidence that such relationships are especially prone to dissolve. In fact, high self-esteem may be the bigger threat: as Caryl E. Rusbult, Gregory D. Morrow and Dennis J. Johnson, all then at the University of Kentucky, showed back in 1987, those who think highly of themselves are more likely than others to respond to problems by severing relations and seeking other partners.

Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll
How about teenagers? How does self-esteem, or the lack thereof, influence their love life, in particular their sexual activity? Investigators have examined this subject extensively. All in all, the results do not support the idea that low self-esteem predisposes young people to more or earlier sexual activity. If anything, those with high self-esteem are less inhibited, more willing to disregard risks and more prone to engage in sex. At the same time, bad sexual experiences and unwanted pregnancies appear to lower self-esteem.

If not sex, then how about alcohol or illicit drugs? Abuse of these substances is one of the most worrisome behaviors among young people, and many psychologists once believed that boosting self-esteem would prevent such problems. The thought was that people with low self-esteem turn to drinking or drugs for solace. The data, however, do not consistently show that low adolescent self-esteem causes or even correlates with the abuse of alcohol or other drugs. In particular, in a large-scale study in 2000, Rob McGee and Sheila M. Williams of the University of Otago Medical School in New Zealand found no correlation between self-esteem measured between ages nine and 13 and drinking or drug use at age 15. Even when findings do show links between alcohol use and self-esteem, they are mixed and inconclusive. A few studies have shown that high self-esteem is associated with frequent alcohol consumption, but another suggests the opposite. We did find, however, some evidence that low self-esteem contributes to illicit drug use. In particular, Judy A. Andrews and Susan C. Duncan of the Oregon Research Institute found in 1997 that declining levels of academic motivation (the main focus of their study) caused self-esteem to drop, which in turn led to marijuana use, although the connection was rather weak.

Interpretation of the findings on drinking and drug abuse is probably complicated by the fact that some people approach the experience out of curiosity or thrill seeking, whereas others may use it to cope with or escape from chronic unhappiness. The overall result is that no categorical statements can be made. The same is true for tobacco use, where our study-by-study review uncovered a preponderance of results that show no influence. The few positive findings we unearthed could conceivably reflect nothing more than self-report bias.

Another complication that also clouds these studies is that the category of people with high self-esteem contains individuals whose self-opinions differ in important ways. Yet in most analyses, people with a healthy sense of self-respect are, for example, lumped with those feigning higher self-esteem than they really feel or who are narcissistic. Not surprisingly, the results of such investigations may produce weak or contradictory findings.

Bully for You
For decades, psychologists believed that low self-esteem was an important cause of aggression. One of us (Baumeister) challenged that notion in 1996, when he reviewed assorted studies and concluded that perpetrators of aggression generally hold favorable and perhaps even inflated views of themselves.

Take the bullying that goes on among children, a common form of aggression. Dan Olweus of the University of Bergen was one of the first to dispute the notion that under their tough exteriors, bullies suffer from insecurities and self-doubts. Although Olweus did not measure self-esteem directly, he showed that bullies reported less anxiety and were more sure of themselves than other children. Apparently the same applies to violent adults, as Baumeister discussed in these pages a few years ago [see “More to Explore,” below].

After coming to the conclusion that high self-esteem does not lessen a tendency toward violence, that it does not deter adolescents from turning to alcohol, tobacco, drugs and sex, and that it fails to improve academic or job performance, we got a boost when we looked into how self-esteem relates to happiness. The consistent finding is that people with high self-esteem are significantly happier than others. They are also less likely to be depressed.

One especially compelling study was published in 1995, after Diener and his daughter Marissa, now a psychologist at the University of Utah, surveyed more than 13,000 college students, and high self-esteem emerged as the strongest factor in overall life satisfaction. In 2004 Sonja Lyubomirsky, Chris Tkach and M. Robin DiMatteo of the University of California at Riverside reported data from more than 600 adults ranging in age from 51 to 95. Once again, happiness and self-esteem proved to be closely tied. Before it is safe to conclude that high self-esteem leads to happiness, however, further research must address the shortcomings of the work that has been done so far.

People with high self-esteem are significantly happier than others. They are also less likely to be depressed.

First, causation needs to be established. It seems possible that high self-esteem brings about happiness, but no research has shown this outcome. The strong correlation between self-esteem and happiness is just that–a correlation. It is plausible that occupational, academic or interpersonal successes cause both happiness and high self-esteem and that corresponding failures cause both unhappiness and low self-esteem. It is even possible that happiness, in the sense of a temperament or disposition to feel good, induces high self-esteem.

Second, it must be recognized that happiness (and its opposite, depression) has been studied mainly by means of self-report, and the tendency of some people toward negativity may produce both their low opinions of themselves and unfavorable evaluations of other aspects of life. In other instances, we were suspicious of self-reports, yet here it is not clear what could replace such assessments. An investigator would indeed be hard-pressed to demonstrate convincingly that a person was less (or more) happy than he or she supposed. Clearly, objective measures of happiness and depression are going to be difficult if not impossible to obtain, but that does not mean self-reports should be accepted uncritically.

What then should we do? Should parents, teachers and therapists seek to boost self-esteem wherever possible? In the course of our literature review, we found some indications that self-esteem is a helpful attribute. It improves persistence in the face of failure. And individuals with high self-esteem sometimes perform better in groups than do those with low self-esteem. Also, a poor self-image is a risk factor for certain eating disorders, especially bulimia–a connection one of us (Vohs) and her colleagues documented in 1999. Other effects are harder to demonstrate with objective evidence, although we are inclined to accept the subjective evidence that self-esteem goes hand in hand with happiness.

So we can certainly understand how an injection of self-esteem might be valuable to the individual. But imagine if a heightened sense of self-worth prompted some people to demand preferential treatment or to exploit their fellows. Such tendencies would entail considerable social costs. And we have found little to indicate that indiscriminately promoting self-esteem in today’s children or adults, just for being themselves, offers society any compensatory benefits beyond the seductive pleasure it brings to those engaged in the exercise.

ROY F. BAUMEISTER, JENNIFER D. CAMPBELL, JOACHIM I. KRUEGER and KATHLEEN D. VOHS collaborated on a more technical paper on self-esteem published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest [see “More to Explore”]. Baumeister, formerly a professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University, became Eppes Professor of Psychology at Florida State University in 2003. Campbell is emeritus professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Krueger is professor of psychology at Brown University. Vohs holds the Canada Research Chair in Marketing Science and Consumer Psychology in the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia.


The Social Importance of Self-esteem. Edited by Andrew M. Mecca, Neil J. Smelser and John Vasconcellos. University of California Press, 1989.

Violent Pride. Roy F. Baumeister in Scientific American, Vol. 284, No. 4, pages 96–101; April 2001.

Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles? Roy F. Baumeister, Jennifer D. Campbell, Joachim I. Krueger and Kathleen D. Vohs in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Vol. 4, No. 1, pages 1–44; May 2003.


EDIT: found a better article

Nothing in the report surprises me. It confuses me that people held those beliefs at all.

Ahhh! Wall of text!

Floccinaucinihilipilification is my new word of the day. I am going to try to inject it into every single conversation, regardless of the fact that I have no freaking clue how to pronounce it.

This is the shit that we’re left with when people present cute ideas that people like to believe in because it makes the world a nicer warmer happier place, not because its based on sound evidence. Sadly, it is very widespread, particularly in education years after this was written.

There are so many things wrong with that article.

First, it treats self-esteem as some sweeping, definitive thing that you can either have or not have, instead of realizing that people esteem themselves in different ways depending on how and where they were raised.

Second, it fails to define what positive outcomes and negative outcomes are, and fails to put them in context.

Third, it tries to correlate things like school and jobs, which the huge majority of people put ZERO intellectual or emotional stock in, to self-esteem, which it never defined, in terms of outcomes, which were never defined.

Fourth, it never told us how it measured self-esteem to begin with, which would make sense, since it doesn’t seem to know what self-esteem is.

These people are trying way too hard to be scientists, but they don’t know what the fuck they’re doing. Their “studies” are meaningless, aimless, and worthless, and absolutely everything about the article I just failed to finish reading was strikingly vague. This is headless chicken science.

Hades, I think that has more to do with the poor writing of the article than the research itself. Basically, they say that how people rate their own self-esteem has little to do with how successful they actually are in life. Its important because back in the 70s, our education system embraced the idea that the best way to make people successful was to raise their self-esteem by constantly praising them. It turns out that doesn’t work at all; and in fact, people with ‘high self-esteem’(meaning, people more likely to describe themselves as being super-cool or whatever) are more likely to hurt others because they think they deserve to.

I hate to post another article, but this one really explains it better:

One of my best friends in college used to complain after every test he took. “I failed… I fucking failed,” he’d say. He was usually inconsolable. But, like clockwork, when he received the test back, he had aced it. He went on to be a Rhodes Scholar.

A teammate on my college wrestling team was more confident in his abilities than any wrestler I’d ever known. “I’m simply the best,” he said, the first time I met him. “And everyone else will have to deal with it.” Then, on the first day of wrestling practice, I watched a non-varsity teammate beat him up… and quickly learned that his confidence wasn’t at all indicative of his wrestling ability.

My girlfriend is beautiful. She has been solicited to model for top agencies, and turned them all down. “They probably ask everyone,” she says. She gets ogled by men wherever she goes, and brushes it off. “They think I look weird,” she says. She receives compliments from me many times a day. “But you have to say that,” she says. Like so many women in Los Angeles (and everywhere)… nothing in this world… nothing… can make her see, simply, that she’s beautiful!

A former friend thought he was God when it came to women. In bars, he’d walk up to any number of women, look them directly in the eye, and say, “Tell me the truth, honey… who’s the hottest guy in the room? Admit it!” And though he must have done this a hundred times in my presence, not one woman genuinely acknowledged that he was the hottest… and he was never able to hold a woman’s attention for longer than a few minutes. Yet still, he managed to end every night convinced that he was the hottest guy in the bar.


Since the 1970’s, many American scientists have argued that the key to high functioning in life is high self-esteem. Low self-esteem, they’ve argued, influences everything from low grades to violent behavior.

And Americans took notice, quickly jumping on the high self-esteem bandwagon. Today, billions of dollars are spent each year on programs, books, psychiatrists, and non-profit organizations that claim to be able to increase our self-esteem – and by extension improve our ability to function and cope in life.

But there’s a big problem with all of this money being spent: The self esteem “fad” is a product of bad science!

In the 1970’s, a number of studies were published that showed a correlation between children with low grades and low self-esteem. The inference was, simply, that lower levels of self-esteem led to lower grades. Subsequently, studies showed that teenage mothers had low self-esteem too. The inference, again, was that teenage girls with low self-esteem were more likely to get pregnant!

That was enough proof for the American public. By the 1980’s, low self-esteem was seen as being at the root of most of our societal ills: Violence, drugs, poor health, unemployment, racial discrimination…. all manifestations of low self-esteem. Something needed to be done!

So we struggled to find ways to raise the self-esteem levels of most Americans… and the rest of the world laughed! “Americans have a lot of issues,” a Swedish acquaintance recently said, “But I don’t think low self-esteem is one of them!”

And the judges of international academic competitions would likely agree with him. Our students score near the bottom in almost every major international academic competition… yet we almost always rate our performance as the best!

Of course, the science on self-esteem has matured over the past few decades… and we’ve determined that, in fact, we were dead wrong in our initial inferences about the effects of self-esteem on people’s abilities to function and perform in society.

More recent studies tracked the behavior of children over time, and showed that their self-esteem levels rose when they received good grades, and fell when they received bad grades. Grades were the cause, not the effect of low self-esteem. And pregnant teenagers more than likely suffered from low self-esteem after they became pregnant teenagers… because they were pregnant teenagers. And violent criminals, counter to assumptions of many, actually tend to have higher self-esteem, which enables them to feel far enough “above” their victims to commit their crimes.

Intuition should have told us these things! If we’ve been on sports teams, we know that our teammates who think they’re the best oftentimes aren’t. If we’ve been in classrooms, we know that our classmates who think they scored the worst, oftentimes scored the best. And if we’ve been in bars, we know that the men and women who think they are God’s gift to life… oftentimes are far from it!

Although science has now largely debunked the self-esteem myth, and though simple intuition should reinforce that debunking, neither has stopped Americans and American institutions from continuing to spend billions of dollars on self-esteem programs and, in effect, perpetuate the myth.

What if that money and effort could go toward actually helping people… rather than helping to perpetuate a myth?

But to help people – and ourselves – we need first to understand the problem and second to know how to help with that problem. If low self-esteem isn’t at the root of all of our problems… then what is?

Here’s a starting point: lack of self-control!

It turns out that studying – rather than artificially raising self-esteem levels – increases a child’s likelihood that she’ll do well on a test. If you can teach a child enough self-control to study, she’ll increase her test scores… and likely feel a little better about herself. And abstaining, or using contraception – rather than artificially raising self-esteem levels – helps curb teen pregnancy. If you can teach a teenage girl the self-control to protect herself, she’s less likely to get pregnant. And not buying the shotgun and ski mask – rather than artificially raising self-esteem levels – makes it much less likely that an individual will rob a bank. If you can teach a youth the self-control to refrain from engaging in violent activities… then likely she won’t!

If we can teach (and learn) higher levels of self-control – which requires a certain amount of education and access to resources – then we start to enjoy some of the benefits that we once thought higher levels of self-esteem would bestow upon us… and we can give the international community one less thing to laugh at us about!

And what I’m saying is, if they want to talk about the causes of success, they should fucking define what it is.

This isn’t bad writing. It’s bullshit science at its finest.

Dude, I couldn’t even stomach finishing the first one. WHY!?

Its just badly written Hades. This is people discussing why the whole point of promoting a happy feel good environment with nothing but positive reinforcement doesn’t work, which is bullshit science. Its what the writers are trying to convey. Correlation doesn’t prove causation. Making bad assumptions is problematic and people are blinded because they see only what they want to see, ignoring the reality of the situation because its more convenient that way.

Don’t read it then. Screw you for raining on my parade.


It’s not just bad writing, Sin. I agree with their conclusion and I agree with what you said, but their approach makes me cringe anyway. They’re concluding something, and they happen to be right, by CHANCE. But even though they’re right, the foundations of their conclusion are soggy shit at best, which is why I don’t want this thread to focus on the contents of the article. It probably would’ve been better not to post it.

I agree that promoting a happy feel good environment with blind positive reinforcement doesn’t work, but it’s sure as hell not because they convinced me to. I agree with their literal conclusion only. Their words are right, but they’re still wrong, because they can’t even pin down an accurate or consistent idea of what self-esteem is.

Their entire point is that there is currently no such thing, that the entire science behind it IS soggy and that this is therefore crap.

I really don’t think that’s their point. I think that’s your point.

Quotes from Curtis’ first post:

Given the often misleading nature of self-reports, we set up our review to emphasize objective measures wherever possible–a requirement that greatly reduced the number of relevant studies (from more than 15,000 to about 200). We were also mindful to avoid another fallacy: the assumption that a correlation between self-esteem and some desired behavior establishes causality. Indeed, the question of causality goes to the heart of the debate.

“many, if not most, of the major problems plaguing society have roots in the low self-esteem of many of the people who make up society.” In reality, the report contained little to support that assertion.

They know.

I think I’m confused. What is it that you’re saying they think there’s no such thing as? “An accurate or consistent idea of what self-esteem is”? Because your quotes imply that they do think one exists, even if it isn’t very well defined by them.

I think I’m either very confused right now, or you’re giving them way more undeserved credit than I’m used to you giving anyone.

If all you’re saying is that they know the science behind all this self-esteem garbage is sketchy, then yeah, I agree that they seem to. But that doesn’t make their science any better. Either way, I think the focus of this thread should be on their conclusion and not how they got there. Which is ironic because because all I’ve talked about so far is how their reasoning is flawed. Meh

They’re not conducting any science to speak of so you can’t criticize their science. Its not there! What they’re doing is discussing, doing an overview of the scientific field on the topic and therefore what you’re reading that you’re not liking is the flimsiness of the topic, which as I mentioned, is the entire point they’re trying to make. They’re reviewing different studies that are flawed for different reasons and briefly saying why.

Yes, but they’re trying to debunk “scientific” myths without really understanding the science themselves, and their conclusion that self-esteem has nothing to do with positive or negative outcomes (which I half agree with and half don’t) doesn’t follow, so it’s still an issue. They may not have done any active science themselves, but their problem is still scientific in nature imo. The article is a clusterfuck built on a clusterfuck of bad ideas, and the root of the problem, I’ve been saying all along, is that self-esteem is subjective and you can’t really science it up the way they’ve been trying to. If anyone wants to talk about self-esteem, they need a more accurate system of judging it. A system that caters to individuals and not just masses of weak “scientific” data.

I think you’re right that it’s the flimsiness of the topic I don’t like, and not the article, which I honestly wasn’t very thorough about reading.

Read the stuff more thoroughly and you’ll get a better feel for what they’re saying. You need to support your claims.

Sin, I re-read the article, and my opinions are pretty much the same.

And if you’re wondering what they are, I’ll sum up:

First of all, both this article and every “study” it was based on treat self-esteem as a universal, definitive thing with only two variations, high and low. I disagree with that ENTIRE premise, which I said earlier. “People esteem themselves in different ways depending on how and where they were raised.” The words high and low aren’t capable of describing entirely how people see themselves. Everyone has individual strengths, weaknesses, loves, and fears, and funneling everyone through the same criteria is a pretty poor way to rate their self image, especially in the context of arbitrary “positive outcomes.”

Also, who’s deciding what’s desirable and what’s not? The article claims that some vague sense of self-worth isn’t necessarily responsible for lowering crime or getting good grades. Have you ever heard a less specific, less certain statement in your life? Reducing self-worth into high and low categories and relating it to broad topics like crime and academic achievement doesn’t explain away the fact that the way people see themselves contributes to their behavior. Their approach is too simplistic to be worth anything in the real world.

IMO, it comes down to everyone having different sets of strengths and insecurities. The article tries to debunk the myth that low self-esteem is the cause of drug use, sexual activity, and other “negative outcomes.” But what it fails to take into account is that people respond to different things in different ways regardless of some overarching general sense of self-worth.

My problem with the article is that it’s right in certain ways, but ultimately useless because it accepts a lot of the assertions made by the studies it’s trying to debunk.


If you’re trying to order a pizza in Italy, it serves to speak Italian.