Too much undeserved self-praise can lead to depression

October 19, 2011, American Psychological Association

People who try to boost their self-esteem by telling themselves they've done a great job when they haven't could end up feeling dejected instead, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

High and low performers felt fine when they assessed themselves accurately, probably because the high performers recognized their strengths and low performers acknowledged their weaknesses and could try to improve their future performance, according to a study in the October issue of the APA journal Emotion.

"These findings challenge the popular notion that self-enhancement and providing positive performance feedback to low performers is beneficial to . Instead, our results underscore the of accurate self-assessments and performance feedback," said lead author Young-Hoon Kim, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania.

The study involved experiments with four different groups of young people from the United States and Hong Kong. Three U.S. groups totaled 295 college undergraduates, with 186 women and a mean age of 19, and one Hong Kong group consisted of 2,780 , with 939 girls, from four different schools and across grades 7-12.

In the first two experiments, one of the U.S. groups and the Hong Kong students took academic tests and were asked to rate and compare their own performances with other students at their schools. Following their assessments, all the participants completed another widely used to assess .

In the third and fourth experiments, researchers evaluated the other two sets of U.S. undergraduates with feedback exercises that made high performers think their performance was low and low performers think their performance was high. Control groups participated in both and received their scores with no feedback.

Across all the studies, results showed that those who rated their own performance as much higher than it actually was were significantly more likely to feel dejected. "Distress following excessive self-praise is likely to occur when a person's inadequacy is exposed, and because inaccurate self-assessments can prevent self-improvement," said co-author Chi-Yue Chiu, of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

The results also revealed cross-cultural differences that support past findings that Asians are more humble than Americans. The U.S. undergraduates had a higher mean response when rating their performance than the Hong Kong students, at 63 percent compared to 49 percent, the researchers found. Still, they found that excessive self-enhancement was related to depression for both cultures.

More information: "Emotional Costs of Inaccurate Self-Assessments: Both Self-Effacement and Self-Enhancement Can Lead to Dejection," Young-Hoon Kim, PhD, University of Pennsylvania; Chi-Yue Chiu, PhD, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; Emotion, Vol. 11, Issue 5.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

How past intentions influence generosity toward the future

January 17, 2018
Over time, it really is the thought that counts – provided we know what that thought was, suggests new research from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

Tracking the impact of early abuse and neglect

January 17, 2018
Children who experience abuse and neglect early in life are more likely to have problems in social relationships and underachieve academically as adults.

Study: No evidence to support link between violent video games and behaviour

January 16, 2018
Researchers at the University of York have found no evidence to support the theory that video games make players more violent.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.