The Level Of Acceptance An Individual Has Within A Group. Self-esteem is an important indicator of how an individual perceives their own worth and value in a social context. It can be influenced by a variety of factors, such as the opinions of others, success in different areas, and the individual’s own self-perception. Sociometer theory suggests that self-esteem is an important indicator of the level of acceptance an individual has within a group. This is because it reflects how the individual evaluates themselves in comparison to their peers, and how they believe their peers view them. In other words, self-esteem is a measure of how accepted an individual feels in a group setting.
This theoretical perspective was first introduced by Mark Leary and colleagues in 1995 and later expanded by Kirkpatrick and Ellis. In Leary’s research, the idea of self-esteem as a sociometer is discussed in depth. This theory was created as a response to psychological phenomena, i.e. social emotions, inter and intrapersonal behaviours, selfish prejudices, and reactions to rejection. Based on this theory, self-esteem is a measure of effectiveness in relationships and social interactions that monitors acceptance and/or rejection by others. With this, relational value is emphasized, which is the degree to which a person considers his relationship with the other and how this affects everyday life. Confirmed by several studies and surveys, if a person is considered to have relational value, he is more likely to have higher self-esteem.
The main concept of the sociometer theory is that the self-esteem system acts as a gauge to measure the quality of an individual’s current and future relationships. Furthermore, this measure of self-esteem assesses these two types of relationships in terms of relational valuation. This is how other people can see and value the relationships they have with the individual. If an individual’s relational appreciation differs negatively, a relational devaluation occurs. Relational devaluation exists in the form of belonging, with a negative alteration that allows the sociometer meter to highlight these threats, producing emotional suffering to act in the sense of recovering relational valuation and restoring balance in individuals’ self-esteem.
According to Leary, there are five main groups associated with relational value that are classified as having the greatest impact on an individual. They are: 1) macro level, ie communities, 2) instrumental coalitions, ie teams, committees, 3) mating relationships, 4) kinship relationships, and 5) friendships.
A study was conducted to see how much people depend on peers and external factors and relational values to regulate their lives. The aim of the study was to select classes for an activity based on student evaluations. In the study, two groups were assigned. Both groups were formed by university students who underwent and were submitted to a peer review. The difference is that the control group of students chose whether they 1) wanted to interact with the person or 2) dissociate themselves from the person. When questioned earlier, some students stated that they were indifferent or did not care about others’ opinion of them. However, when the results were analyzed, there was a large fluctuation in overall self-esteem. Those who were placed in the second group (dissociation), receiving a low relational value, had low self-esteem. As a result, this compromised the way they assessed the situation. In the first group, where perceived relational value was high, self-esteem was also high. This provides some evidence for an evolutionary basis in the fundamental human need for inclusion in a group and the burden of being on the fringes of social acceptance.
Cameron and Stinson further revise the definition of sociometer theory, highlighting two key constructs of the concept:
- Specific experiences of social acceptance and rejection are internalized to form a representation of the own value and effort they are contributing as a social partner.
- The higher self-esteem someone has, the more he will perceive himself to be valued by others. For individuals with low self-esteem, they question their worth as a social partner, often allowing their subsequent insecurities to spill over into future relationships.
Types of self-esteem related to the sociometer theory
- state self esteem measures the person’s current level of relational appreciation and assesses the likelihood that the individual is accepted and included versus rejected and excluded by others in the immediate situation. The state’s self-esteem system monitors the person’s behavior and social environment for cues relevant to relational appraisal and responds with affective and motivational consequences when cues relevant to exclusion are detected.
- Trait self-esteem is a subjective measure of an individual’s likelihood of being accepted or rejected in a social situation. This form of self-esteem assists in evaluating an individual in social situations, as well as estimating whether current or future relationships would be respected and valued in the long run.
- Global self-esteem is a stable, internal measure of self-esteem that an individual obtains to assess the potential global perspective that different races, ethnicities and communities can say about an individual. Often this internal measure of self-esteem is beneficial for restoring relational appreciation if an individual’s self-esteem drops below normal levels.
- Domain-specific self-esteem is a measure by which an individual will examine their own accomplishments, such as in social, academic, and athletic situations that can alter self-esteem. This domain-specific measure is an effective way to identify discrepancies in current performance, rather than creating a misinformed trend (i.e., that you are consistently underperforming).
Evidence in support
Support for the Sociometer Theory came from an international, crossover, and sequential study conducted in the Netherlands, assessing self-esteem in 1,599 seven- and eight-year-old children. The study examined, first, how self-esteem develops in childhood and, second, whether self-esteem develops through changes in relationships with peers and family. Interindividual differences and intraindividual changes in social support over time were assessed. It was found that mid-level self-esteem remained stable in mid-childhood and did not change. In addition, within-person and between-person ratings generated positive self-esteem reports, showing a more robust social network of self-report measures that participants completed after these ratings.
Cameron and Stinson again provided evidence in support of the Sociometer Theory, demonstrating that acceptance and rejection experiences can have a strong influence on self-esteem levels, both in the short and long term.
- Self-esteem responds to social acceptance and rejection: State self-esteem (self-esteem in the immediate situation) responds strongly to both social acceptance and rejection. It is known that this acceptance causes increases in the state’s self-esteem and rejection causes negative views on self-esteem to occur. In a laboratory setting, these changes are due to future projections of social rejection/acceptance or memories of past experiences in which social rejection/acceptance occurred, which may allow an individual’s self-esteem to subjectively deviate from normal levels.
- Global self-esteem is associated with perceptions of social value: Social value is a concept that can be used as a sociometer to measure self-esteem. Furthermore, this association is believed to exist because global self-esteem influences self-views in a top-down manner. In this downward process, the traits normally associated with a sense of belonging in social situations act as mediators of self-esteem. Furthermore, if this form of top-down global self-esteem influences self-views, then an individual’s perceptions of their social belonging and worth should be positively correlated with global self-esteem.
- Self-esteem regulates acceptance and rejection responses: sociometer theory emphasizes that a negative change in self-esteem must disturb the balance of the self-esteem system, alerting the sociometer to distinguish between these discrepancies, allowing for behavior that restores this balance, restoring belonging and self-esteem to individuals in social situations.
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