Cognitive/Affective Reactions in the Improvement of Self-Esteem. When Thoughts and Feelings Make a Difference

Susan M. Andersen, Marirosa Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We explored the hypothesis that in some contexts people may give more weight to their cognitive/affective reactions than to their behavioral reactions when making self-evaluative inferences. In one of two contexts, subjects recalled either their positive cognitive/affective reactions, their positive behavioral reactions, or their unspecified positive reactions to several standard situations; these were reactions that had led them to feel a special appreciation for their own personal qualities. The experimental context of these recollections involved either private rehearsal, in which subjects simply thought about their past reactions, or public expression, in which they presented their reactions verbally while being tape-recorded. The impact of subjects' recollections on their subsequent self-esteem in each context was then assessed. Results showed that recalling positive cognitive/affective reactions had a significantly greater impact on self-esteem than did recalling positive behavioral or unspecified reactions when these recollections took place in a private, nonevaluative context, but not when they took place in the more public context in which the perspective of outside observers was likely to have been salient. The findings are discussed in terms of theories of self-inference processes and of actor-observer differences, and their probable limitations are outlined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1086-1097
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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