Social Exclusion, Self-Esteem, & Mating Relationships: Testing a Domain-Specific Variant of Sociometer Theory
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Sociometer Theory (Leary & Downs, 1995; Leary, Tambor, Terdal, & Downs, 1995) proposes that state self-esteem is a gauge of social inclusion. Expansions to this theory by Kirkpatrick and Ellis (2001) suggest that this is a domain specific process with different sociometers for different adaptive domains. Two studies were conducted to test predictions derived from the domain specific sociometer model of self-esteem proposed by Kirkpatrick and Ellis (2001). In Study 1, participants (N = 83) who were currently single, received feedback to indicate either acceptance (inclusion) or rejection (exclusion) for a potential dating situation. The results indicated that participants who were accepted versus rejected reported increases in state self-esteem and higher mating aspirations. The same effects were not present for either friendship aspiration or friendship investment, indicating domain specificity. The effect of the manipulation on mating aspirations was also significantly mediated by state self-esteem. Study 2 replicated Study 1 using participants (N = 81) who were currently in an intimate relationship. The results indicated that participants who were accepted versus rejected reported increases in state self-esteem and decreases in perceived relationship quality (commitment and satisfaction). The same effects were not present for either friendships aspirations or friendship investment. The association between the manipulation and resulting changes in perceived relationship quality were significantly mediated by state self-esteem, with state self-esteem acting as a suppressor. The results from both studies support a domain-specific conceptualisation of sociometer theory.