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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2016 Jun;110(6):908-20. doi: 10.1037/pspp0000073. Epub 2015 Nov 23.

Me, us, and them: Testing sociometer theory in a socially diverse real-life context.

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Columbia Aging Center, Columbia University.
Department of Psychology, University of Athens.
Department of Psychology, Humboldt University Berlin.


Although numerous studies have emphasized the role evaluations by others play for people's self-esteem, the perspective of others and the social diversity of real-life contexts have largely been ignored. In a large-scale longitudinal study, we examined the link between adolescents' self-esteem and their self- and peer-perceived popularity in socially diverse classrooms. First, we tested the competing directions of effects predicted by sociometer theory (i.e., peer-perceived popularity affects self-esteem, mediated by self-perceived popularity) and the self-broadcasting perspective (i.e., self-esteem affects peer-perceived popularity). Second, we examined differential effects of popularity in the own social group ("us") versus others ("them") by using immigrant status groups (i.e., immigrants versus host-nationals). We examined 1,057 13-year-old students in 3 annual waves. Cross-lagged analyses revealed that popularity among peers of the in-group but not among peers of the out-group prospectively predicted self-esteem, which was mediated by self-perceived popularity. Self-esteem in turn prospectively predicted self- but not peer-perceived popularity. In sum, the findings provide support for sociometer theory and a conscious sociometer mechanism but no support for the self-broadcasting perspective. The findings further demonstrate that the sociometer was more responsive to popularity in immigrant status in- than out-groups. In conclusion, the findings underscore the need to consider the perspective of others and their social group memberships to better understand the complexities of the link between self-esteem and popularity. (PsycINFO Database Record.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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