Self-esteem moderates neuroendocrine and psychological responses to interpersonal rejection

Document Type


Publication Date



In this study, the authors investigated self-esteem as a moderator of psychological and physiological responses to interpersonal rejection and tested an integrative model detailing the mechanisms by which self-esteem may influence cognitive, affective, and physiological responses. Seventy-eight participants experienced an ambiguous interpersonal rejection (or no rejection) from an opposite sex partner in the context of an online dating interaction. Salivary cortisol was assessed at 5 times, and self-reported cognitive and affective responses were assessed. Compared with those with high self-esteem, individuals with low self-esteem responded to rejection by appraising themselves more negatively, making more self-blaming attributions, exhibiting greater cortisol reactivity, and derogating the rejector. Path analysis indicated that the link between low self-esteem and increased cortisol reactivity was mediated by self-blame attributions; cortisol reactivity, in turn, mediated the link between low self-esteem and increased partner derogation. Discussion centers on the role of self-esteem as part of a broader psychobiological system for regulating and responding to social threat and on implications for health outcomes.


Correction Notice: An erratum for this article was reported in Vol 98(6) of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. This article contained a misspelling in the last name of the first author in the below reference. The complete correct reference is included. The online version of the article has been corrected.