Theory and prior research suggest that (a) a positive sense of self–worth and (b) perceived control over one’s outcomes facilitate constructive responses to negative outcomes. We therefore predicted that encouraging students to maintain their sense of self–worth and/or construe their academic outcomes as controllable would promote achievement. In a field experiment, low–performing students in a psychology class were randomly assigned to receive, each week, review questions, review questions plus self–esteem bolstering, or review questions plus exhortations to assume responsibility and control. Contrary to predictions, the D and F students got worse as a result of self–esteem bolstering and students in the other conditions did not change. These findings raise ethical and practical questions about the widespread practice of bolstering self–esteem in the hope of improving academic performance.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2007 Guilford Press. This article first appeared in Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 26:4 (2007), 447-459.

Please note that downloads of the article are for private/personal use only.