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Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2015 May;19(2):177-98. doi: 10.1177/1088868314544693. Epub 2014 Jul 25.

What is implicit self-esteem, and does it vary across cultures?

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University of California, Los Angeles, USA.
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada


Implicit self-esteem (ISE), which is often defined as automatic self-evaluations, fuses research on unconscious processes with that on self-esteem. As ISE is viewed as immune to explicit control, it affords the testing of theoretical questions such as whether cultures vary in self-enhancement motivations. We provide a critical review and integration of the work on (a) the operationalization of ISE and (b) possible cultural variation in self-enhancement motivations. Although ISE measures do not often vary across cultures, recent meta-analyses and empirical studies question the validity of the most common way of defining ISE. We revive an alternative conceptualization that defines ISE in terms of how positively people evaluate objects that reflect upon themselves. This conceptualization suggests that ISE research should target alternative phenomena (e.g., minimal group effect, similarity-attraction effect, endowment effect) and it allows for a host of previous cross-cultural findings to bear on the question of cultural variability in ISE.


culture/ethnicity; self-presentation; self/identity

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