College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Summer 8-22-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Verena Graupmann, PhD

Second Advisor

Kimberly Quinn, PhD


Scholars have speculated on the effects of social media on our self-esteem, but research has resulted in mixed findings (e.g., Valkenburg et al., 2006). One area that has yet to be investigated thoroughly is how social media use relates to self-esteem pursuit (Crocker & Park, 2004). Self-esteem pursuit has negative outcomes for learning, relatedness, and autonomy (Crocker & Park, 2004), but research has yet to determine whether pursuing self-esteem on social media results in similar negative outcomes. The current study investigated whether social media engage users in self-esteem pursuit by priming existing self-esteem contingencies. Additionally, we investigated whether these contingencies lead to preoccupation with the self or impact rational information processing. Using a selective exposure paradigm, we assessed whether heightened awareness of self-esteem contingencies on social media motivates one to bolster their self-view by engaging in biased motivational reasoning (i.e., confirmation bias) and whether the proposed relationship can be explained by an increase in self-focused attention. Results showed that engaging with Instagram (relative to Wikipedia) did not produce increases in contingent self-esteem or biased motivational reasoning behavior. These findings suggest that brief exposure to varied content on social media does not prime existing self-esteem contingencies. Implications of these results with respect to improving the current methods for future investigation of this research question are discussed.

SLP Collection


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Psychology Commons