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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003 Oct;85(4):605-15.

Are self-enhancing cognitions associated with healthy or unhealthy biological profiles?

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA.


Self-enhancement is variously portrayed as a positive illusion that can foster health and longevity or as defensive neuroticism that can have physiological-neuroendocrine costs. In a laboratory stress-challenge paradigm, the authors found that high self-enhancers had lower cardiovascular responses to stress, more rapid cardiovascular recovery, and lower baseline cortisol levels, consistent with the positive illusions predictions and counter to the predictions of the defensive neuroticism position. A second set of analyses, replicating the "illusory mental health paradigm" (J. Shedler, M. Mayman, & M. Manis, 1993), also did not support the defensive neuroticism hypothesis. The association between self-enhancement and cortisol was mediated by psychological resources; analyses of the cardiovascular results provided no definitive mediational pathway. Discussion centers on the potential stress-buffering effects of self-enhancing beliefs.

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