Low self-esteem and the formation of global self-performance estimates in emerging adulthood

M. Rouault*, G.-J. Will, S.M. Fleming, R.J. Dolan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


High self-esteem, an overall positive evaluation of self-worth, is a cornerstone of mental health. Previously we showed that people with low self-esteem differentially construct beliefs about momentary self-worth derived from social feedback. However, it remains unknown whether these anomalies extend to constructing beliefs about self-performance in a non-social context, in the absence of external feedback. Here, we examined this question using a novel behavioral paradigm probing subjects’ self-performance estimates with or without external feedback. We analyzed data from young adults (N = 57) who were selected from a larger community sample (N = 2402) on the basis of occupying the bottom or top 10% of a reported self-esteem distribution. Participants performed a series of short blocks involving two perceptual decision-making tasks with varying degrees of difficulty, with or without feedback. At the end of each block, they had to decide on which task they thought they performed best, and gave subjective task ratings, providing two measures of self-performance estimates. We found no robust evidence of differences in objective performance between high and low self-esteem participants. Nevertheless, low self-esteem participants consistently underestimated their performance as expressed in lower subjective task ratings relative to high self-esteem participants. These results provide an initial window onto how cognitive processes underpinning the construction of self-performance estimates across different contexts map on to global dispositions relevant to mental health such as self-esteem.

Original languageEnglish
Article number272
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2022


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fmri
  • Individual-differences
  • Metacognition
  • Responses


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