Self-esteem and self-enhancement are two critical phenomena that play major roles in social psychological theory and research. Everyone has an idea what self-esteem is; however, from an empirical standpoint, what exactly is self-esteem is hotly debated. The unidimensional definition of self-esteem defines it as a global assessment of one’s worth, with greater self-esteem being associated with greater self-worth. Whereas the multidimensional view of self-esteem defines self-esteem as a ratio of competences and worthiness. Furthermore, self-esteem can be broken down into different types: trait self-esteem is a stable view of the self that does not fluctuate much from day to day; state self-esteem is a more transitory view of the self that fluctuates from day to day; and domain-specific self-esteem relies on decisions we make about ourselves or self-evaluations about how we perform in specific situations. Regardless of type, there is an overall belief that humans have an innate need for high self-esteem and that they are particularly attuned to situations that may threaten this. When self-esteem is threatened, people enact behaviors aimed at increasing it: this is called self-enhancement. The idea that people are driven to self-enhance has become a popular topic in psychology and is found in some of the field’s most influential theories. For example, self-determination theory (SDT) examines both interpersonal and intrapersonal aspects of self-esteem and self-enhancement. Terror management theory (TMT) explains why human beings need self-esteem and how they self-enhance. Sociometer theory is concerned with understanding how self-esteem developed in humanity’s past and how it affects self-enhancement in the present. Finally, self-affirmation theory focuses on how people try to self-enhance after their self-integrity has been threatened.
Zachary P. Hohman and Joshua K. Brown
Eric Mark Kramer
Cultural fusion is the process of integrating new information and generating new cultural forms. Cultural fusion theory recognizes the world as a churning information environment of cultural legacies, competing and complementing one another, forming novel cultural expressions in all aspects of life, including music, cuisine, pedagogy, legal systems, governance, economic behavior, spirituality, healthcare, norms of personal and interpersonal style, family structures, and so forth. This is a process of pan-evolution, involving countless channels, not merely two cultures coming together to form a third, hybrid culture. During this process the traditional pace and form of change is itself changing. Cultures are also transformed as a result of the churning process of an emergent global semantic field generated by countless networked exchanges.
Sheldon Solomon and Jeff Greenberg
Terror management theory (TMT) posits that the uniquely human awareness of death engenders potentially debilitating existential terror that is “managed” by subscribing to cultural worldviews providing a sense that life has meaning as well as opportunities to obtain self-esteem, in pursuit of psychological equanimity in the present and literal or symbolic immortality in the future. In empirical support of TMT, research has demonstrated that: self-esteem serves to buffer anxiety in general, and about death in particular; reminders of death increase defense of the cultural worldview and efforts to bolster self-esteem; threats to the cultural worldview or self-esteem increase the accessibility of implicit death thoughts; conscious and non-conscious thoughts of death instigate qualitatively different defensive processes; death reminders increase hostility toward people with different beliefs, affection for charismatic leaders, and support for political and religious extremism; and death reminders magnify symptoms of psychological disorders.