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Recent research: egosystem & ecosystem

In the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.   Beatles

This is essentially the Beatles closing statement. It is the last lyric on the last album they recorded.
(Let It Be was the last album they released, but it was recorded earlier).

Every now and again, when following up interesting looking research studies, I break through into a whole new set of research findings that I find fascinating and useful.  This happened today.  I was checking through a recent edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology when I came across the study by Crocker & Canevello (see below).  I wanted more information, so I googled Jennifer Crocker and University of Michigan.  Bingo!  I stumbled into the Self and Social Motivation Laboratory website.  Great.  It's relevant to stress, health & wellbeing in a whole bunch of ways.  In its focus on compassion for others it balances the recent focus on the importance of compassion for self - see, for example, the multiple related entries on this website viewable by clicking "compassion" in the tag cloud, or go to the list of downloadable "Handouts, questionnaires & other leaflets" and open the section on "Compassion & criticism".  It adds to the literature on how encouraging wellbeing-orientated behaviours promotes more resistance to slipping into subsequent states of anxiety and depression.  Jennifer Crocker's research links too with the huge literature on self-esteem, and the exciting work on personal growth and on self-determination.  The Self and Social Motivation website provides access (via a requesting email) to full text of research studies you might be interested in, downloadable copies of relevant questionnaires (see especially the Compassionate and Self-Image Goals Scale & a broader adaptation - see below), and a link to a fascinating talk by Jennifer Crocker (see the February 2007 video).  Hurray for the internet!   

Crocker, J. and A. Canevello (2008). "Creating and undermining social support in communal relationships: the role of compassionate and self-image goals." J Pers Soc Psychol 95(3): 555-75.  [PubMed]
In 2 studies, the authors examined whether relationship goals predict change in social support and trust over time. In Study 1, a group of 199 college freshmen completed pretest and posttest measures of social support and interpersonal trust and completed 10 weekly reports of friendship goals and relationship experiences. Average compassionate goals predicted closeness, clear and connected feelings, and increased social support and trust over the semester; self-image goals attenuated these effects. Average self-image goals predicted conflict, loneliness, and afraid and confused feelings; compassionate goals attenuated these effects. Changes in weekly goals predicted changes in goal-related affect, closeness, loneliness, conflict, and beliefs about mutual and individualistic caring. In Study 2, a group of 65 roommate pairs completed 21 daily reports of their goals for their roommate relationship. Actors' average compassionate and self-image goals interacted to predict changes over 3 weeks in partners' reports of social support received from and given to actors; support that partners gave to actors, in turn, predicted changes in actors' perceived available support, indicating that people with compassionate goals create a supportive environment for themselves and others, but only if they do not have self-image goals.

Crocker, J., Y. Niiya, et al. (2008). "Why does writing about important values reduce defensiveness? Self-affirmation and the role of positive other-directed feelings." Psychol Sci 19(7): 740-7.  [PubMed
Previous research has repeatedly shown that writing about an important value, compared with writing about an unimportant value, reduces defensiveness in response to self-threatening information, but has not identified why. Study 1 showed that participants who wrote about an important value reported more positive other-directed feelings, such as love and connection, than participants who wrote about an unimportant value. Study 2 replicated this effect, and showed that loving and connected feelings, but not positive or negative self-directed feelings, completely accounted for the effect of a values-affirmation manipulation on smokers' acceptance of information indicating that smoking harms health. These studies, in concert with previous research, suggest that values affirmation reduces defensiveness via self-transcendence, rather than self-integrity (i.e., self-worth or self-images).

Garcia, J. A. and J. Crocker (2008). "Reasons for disclosing depression matter: the consequences of having egosystem and ecosystem goals." Soc Sci Med 67(3): 453-62.  [PubMed
People with depression often conceal their depression and do not seek help, in part because of the stigma associated with mental illness. We propose two motivational systems for the self: egosystem motivations, concerned with protecting and inflating desired self-images, and ecosystem motivations, concerned with contributing or supporting others. Using a sample of 48 individuals at a Midwestern university, USA, this study examined motivations for disclosing or concealing a concealable stigma, to test the hypotheses that: (1) these motivations load on two factors corresponding to egosystem and ecosystem goals, and (2) ecosystem motivations for disclosure have more positive effects on disclosure and psychological well-being. We found that people with egosystem goals disclosed less, and also experienced lower psychological well-being when they did disclose. Conversely, people with ecosystem goals disclosed more and experienced greater psychological well-being while doing so. Implications of these findings for deciding when and to whom to disclose one's depression are discussed.

Park, L. E. and J. Crocker (2008). "Contingencies of self-worth and responses to negative interpersonal feedback." Self and Identity 7(2): 184 - 203.   [Abstract/Full Text
The present research examined effects of receiving negative interpersonal feedback on state self-esteem, affect, and goal pursuit as a function of trait self-esteem and contingencies of self-worth. Two same-sex participants interacted with each other and then received negative feedback, ostensibly from the other participant, or no feedback, regarding their likeability. Participants then reported their state self-esteem, affect, and self-presentation goals - how they wanted to be perceived by others at the moment. Among participants who received negative feedback, those who more strongly based their self-worth on others' approval experienced lower state self-esteem, positive affect, and greater negative affect than those whose self-worth was less contingent on others' approval. Participants with low self-esteem showed greater desire to appear physically attractive to others the more they based self-worth on others' approval and received negative feedback. In contrast, participants with high self-esteem showed greater desire to appear warm/caring/kind the more they based self-worth on others' approval and received negative feedback. Implications for self-esteem, motivation, and interpersonal processes are discussed.

Crocker, A. & A. Canavello "Compassionate & self-image goals scale (adapted)".  This slightly adapted version of the goals scale orientates the questions more generally towards people's overall relationships.  [Scale & Background]


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