Designing and testing a risk regulation intervention to increase relationship initiation among individuals with lower self-esteem
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Social risk elicits an internal struggle between wanting to form significant relationships (i.e., connectedness goals) and avoiding rejection (i.e., self-protection goals). The current research tested an intervention designed to reduce perceptions of risk for low self-esteem individuals (LSEs). However, the intervention did not function as anticipated and regardless of self-esteem level, participants reported lower perceived acceptance and lower state self-esteem in the intervention condition compared to the control. In a post-session two weeks following the manipulation, high self-esteem individuals (HSEs) in the intervention appear to not only recover, but actually reported significantly more perceived regard and global self-esteem than HSEs in the control. A second study investigated the impact of the intervention in light of these surprising findings. Results suggest that viewing the intervention video in a socially risky situation caused both HSEs and LSEs to experience social threat. In contrast, the control video actually served to reduce social risk.