48 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2019 Last revised: 4 Nov 2019
Date Written: November 2, 2019
We develop a model of fragile self-esteem — self-esteem that is vulnerable to objectively unjustified swings — and study its implications for choices that depend on, or are aimed to protect, one's self-view. We assume that a person's self-esteem is determined by sampling from his store of ego-relevant memories in a fashion that in turn depends on his self-esteem. This feedback mechanism can create multiple "self-esteem personal equilibria,'' making self-esteem fragile. Self-esteem is especially likely to be fragile, as well as unrealistic in either the positive or the negative direction, if it is an important ingredient of overall utility. A person with fragile self-esteem who has a low self-view might respond to an increase in incentives by decreasing effort. An individual with a high self-view, in contrast, might distort their choices to avoid a collapse in self-esteem. We discuss the implications of our results for education, job search, workaholism, and aggression.
Keywords: ego, confidence, self-esteem, personal equilibria
JEL Classification: D03
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation