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Episode 8: Social motivation and the pursuit of self-esteem – with Prof. Jennifer Crocker

By December 5, 2021December 11th, 2021No Comments

Episode 8: Social motivation and the pursuit of self-esteem – with Prof. Jennifer Crocker

As social beings the way we interact with others is hugely important to us. Professor Crocker has developed a unique expertise in social psychology and through her research, now spanning over decades, she has contributed with important insight into the costs and benefits of being more focused on ourselves or including others in our intentions. In this episode we learn about the psychology of giving and receiving and how both can have either a positive or negative impact depending on how it is approached. We also learn that there is more to self-esteem than just aiming to have lots of it. The way we pursue self-esteem has actually shown to be the most important part for our health and happiness.

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Main topic notes

  • Contingencies of self-esteem [02:24]
  • The cost of pursuing self-esteem [05:01]
  • Using the pursuit of self-esteem as a motivating force [07:31]
  • Self-esteem vs self-love and self-acceptance [08:45]
  • Selfishness vs otherishness [11:12]
  • The costs and benefits of giving [13:29]
  • Giving responsive support [17:00]
  • The costs and benefits of receiving [20:34]
  • When it’s difficult asking for help [26:09]
  • How to offer help in a responsive and specific way [27:54]
  • What makes us more selfish or more otherish [31:11]
  • How we create more otherishness [32:20]
  • How to learn more about our ego through awareness and self-reflection [37:00]
  • How to learn about your own contingencies of self-worth [40:56]
  • How to reduce the effect of your contingencies of self-worth [42:18]
  • How to reduce your own stress response in certain social situations [46:18]
  • How we can break generational trauma [51:47]

Main articles

Crocker J, Canevello A, Brown AA. Social Motivation: Costs and Benefits of Selfishness and Otherishness. Annu Rev Psychol. 2017 Jan 3;68:299-325. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010416-044145. Epub 2016 Jun 24. PMID: 27362501.

Crocker J, Wolfe CT. Contingencies of self-worth. Psychol Rev. 2001 Jul;108(3):593-623. doi: 10.1037/0033-295x.108.3.593. PMID: 11488379.


  • It is not only the amount of self-esteem one has that is important. Research has shown that the pursuit of self-esteem, meaning how it is acquired, has a larger impact on our health and happiness.
  • Professor Crocker found something she calls contingencies of self-worth and this is when you connect your sense of value to your success or failure within a certain domain.
  • One cost of these contingencies of self-worth is that the constant ups and downs we experience due to fluctuations in our performance has a negative effect on our psychological well-being.
  • A way to reduce these contingencies of self-worth is to include others in your goals. When you shift your focus outwards from yourself and look at how you can provide value to others, your sense of value becomes detached from your performance and you tend to focus less on how you are perceived by others.
  • Being otherish means having a concern for the well-being of others in addition to yourself. Being otherish towards another person even has the effect of making that person more otherish in turn.
  • In order for giving to be beneficial for our health and happiness it needs to be adapted both to ourselves and the receiver. This means taking our own needs into consideration while being responsive to what the receiver actually wants.