Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Program Name/Specialization

Social Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Dr. Justin Cavallo

Advisor Role

Doctoral Supervisor


Social support is an essential part of personal and relationship well-being. However, not all relationship partners may be equally willing to provide social support to close others. Due to their tendencies toward pessimism (Baumeister et al., 2003) and self-protective biases (Murray et al., 2003, 2008) individuals with lower (vs. higher) self-esteem may have biased perceptions about their own efficacy when it comes to providing support, as well as the consequences and benefits of support provision. These biased beliefs could mediate the relationship between provider self-esteem and support provision. In the present research, I examine how self-esteem affects social support provision. I first review previous work on self-esteem and biased thinking, as well as self-efficacy. Across five studies, I investigate how self-efficacy and biased perceptions about the outcomes of social support influences the willingness of individuals with lower self-esteem (LSEs) to provide social support to their romantic partner. Study 1 showed that LSEs reported giving less instrumental support or advice to their romantic partner in social support situations relative to HSEs. Moreover, the process was mediated by LSEs’ perceptions of themselves as less effective support providers, self-efficacy, reflected appraisal of helpfulness, and support benefits beliefs. Studies 2, 3, and 4 sought to manipulate efficacy or social support beliefs to further test this proposed mediational mechanism. Although these manipulations did not differentially affect LSEs’ (vs. HSEs’) willingness to provide support, collapsing across conditions revealed that, in Study 2, those with lower (vs. higher) self-esteem were less willing to provide support to their partner, and this was mediated by both their feelings of situational efficacy, as well as reflected appraisal of helpfulness. Similarly, LSEs in Study 3 reported being less willing to provide support to their romantic partner that HSEs did, and this was due both to feeling less capable and believing if they tried to help and failed there would be negative relationship consequences. A similar pattern emerged in Study 4. Study 5 extended this work by testing how efficacy and support beliefs affected support provision in a daily diary study. Results revealed, contrary to expectations, that although LSEs reported feeling less capable when providing support, the support they provided was not significantly different in quality from HSEs, as indexed by both recipient and provider reports. Although LSEs reported receiving fewer positive benefits when they provided social support, their partners reported similar levels of positive benefits from social support as partners of HSEs did. There was no difference in the amount of negative costs associated recipients and providers felt based on provider’s self-esteem

Convocation Year


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