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Distinctions are made between global and specific, personal and social, and trait and state self-esteem, and these are used to structure a review of over 40 studies concerning social identity theory's hypothesis that (a) intergroup discrimination elevates self-esteem and (b) low self-esteem motivates discrimination. It is observed that researchers have tended to employ measures of global personal trait self-esteem in their investigations of this self-esteem hypothesis, and it is argued that measures of specific social state self-esteem are more consistent with social identity theory's assumptions. Although no convincing evidence is found for the self-esteem hypothesis in its full and unqualified form, it is argued that this is due to a lack of specificity in its formulation and it is suggested that a more qualified and specific version of the hypothesis may be more appropriate.

Original publication




Journal article


Pers Soc Psychol Rev

Publication Date





40 - 62