Resolving Conflicts Among Self-Evaluative Motives: Positive Experiences as a Resource for Overcoming Defensiveness1

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The present research investigates how undergoing a negative or positive experience subsequently influences feedback seeking regarding self-attributes varying in self-relevance. Participants were offered feedback from earlier testing regarding their assets or liabilities for attaining various personal goals (general life goals or specific careers). Overall, self-relevance of a goal increased interest in both assets- and liabilities-focused feedback regarding that goal. As predicted, however, the effect of self-relevance depended on whether participants initially failed or succeeded on an unrelated task. Specifically, after failure, the self-relevance of a goal was more likely to increase interest in assets-focused feedback than interest in liabilities-focused feedback. In contrast, after success, the self-relevance of a goal was equally or more likely to increase interest in liabilities-focused feedback than interest in assets-focused feedback. These results suggest that undergoing a positive or negative experience subsequently influences the relative weight of ego-defensive and self-assessment motives in feedback-seeking decisions.

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