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A Test of Three Models of Bias in Self-Assessment

L. Edward Wells and Paul D. Sweeney
Social Psychology Quarterly
Vol. 49, No. 1 (Mar., 1986), pp. 1-10
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2786852
Page Count: 10
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A Test of Three Models of Bias in Self-Assessment
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Abstract

A Sample of 1508 high school boys from a national longitudinal survey of academic abilities and beliefs was used to test self-enhancement, self-consistency and stability-contingent theory. Respondents completed standardized ability tests, self-ratings of those abilities and measures of self-esteem and stability of self-esteem. Self-enhancement theory predicts that persons low, in contrast to high, in self-esteem will overrate their ability relative to the standardized measures in order to increase esteem. Self-consistency theory makes the opposite prediction: in order to avoid inconsistency and hence psychological uncertainty, people will make self-ratings that are compatible with their level of self-esteem. A third model, the stability-contingent hypothesis, was also tested. This model predicts that subjects with unstable self-esteem will show enhancement effects while those with stable levels of self-esteem will show consistency effects. Little support was found for either enhancement theory or the stability contingent hypothesis. Instead, self-consistency effects seem to be operating for all our dependent measures.

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