Concealable Stigmas and Positive Self-Perceptions: Feeling Better Around Similar Others

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In an 11-day experience-sampling study, 86 Harvard undergraduates rated their momentary self-esteem and affect and then described the who, what, and where of their daily lives. Those with concealable stigmas (students who indicated that they were gay, that they were bulimic, or that their family earned less than $20,000 each year) reported lower self-esteem and more negative affect than both those whose stigmas were visible and those without stigmatizing characteristics. Only the presence of similar others lifted the self-esteem and mood of students with concealable stigmas, and these particular students were the least likely to experience such occasions. Thus, contact with similar others protects the psychological self from negative cultural messages.

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