By Bob Reasoner

Implicit self-esteem refers to those aspects of the self that are represented in memory via routinized associations that are not readily available to introspection. This is another approach to the assessment of self-esteem, along with many of the other concepts of self-esteem reported in the literature.

Recently questions have been raised about the validity of self-report measures of self-esteem since they can only tell us what people believe to be true about themselves. We know that behavior is determined not only by conscious thought but also by emotional reaction. As a result, there is a growing interest in measuring information that people may not be willing or able to report because it is at the unconscious level. Many researchers are now using implicit measures of self-esteem rather than traditional self-esteem assessment instruments such as Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale or Coopersmith’s Self-Esteem Inventory.

The most widely used measure of implicit self-esteem is the Implicit Association Test IAT (Greenwald & Farnham (2000) "Using the Implicit Association Test to measure self-esteem and self-concept." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 1022-1038.) It assesses the relative strength of automatic positive and negative associations with self and with others. Another widely used measure is the Initials-Preference Task (IPT). (Greenwald & Banaji (1995) "Implicit social cognition: Attitudes, self-esteem, and stereotypes." Psychological Revi ew, 102, 4-27). It indirectly measures self-esteem by capitalizing on individual differences in the tendency to evaluate stimuli associated with the self more favorably than stimuli not associated with the self. For example, individuals rate their preferences for the 26 letters of the alphabet and their preference for letters of their own initials as opposed to other letters of the alphabet.

The most recent issue of the journal SELF AND IDENTITY, April-September 2007, is devoted to research on the "The Implicit Self."


For more information about this research topic or other research on self-esteem, contact Bob Reasoner, President, International Council for Self-Esteem at




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