The Role of Self-Esteem and Anxiety in Decision Making for Self versus Others in Relationships

Document Type



Behavioral and Organizational Sciences (CGU)

Publication Date



Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Previous research has documented a tendency for people to make more risk-seeking decisions for others than for themselves in relationship scenarios. Two experiments investigated whether this self–other difference is moderated by participants' self-esteem and anxiety levels. In Experiment 1, lower self-esteem and higher anxiety levels were associated with more risk-averse choices for personal decisions but not for decisions for others. Therefore, participants with lower self-esteem/higher anxiety showed greater self–other differences in comparison to participants with higher self-esteem/lower anxiety levels. Experiment 2 demonstrated that this effect was largely mediated by participants' expectations of success and feelings about potential negative outcomes. These results are discussed in the context of “threats to the self,” with a central role played by anxiety and self-esteem threats in personal decision making but not in decision making for others.

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© 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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