There's no substitute for belonging: Self-affirmation following social and nonsocial threats

Megan L. Knowles, Gale M. Lucas, Daniel C. Molden, Wendi L. Gardner, Kristy K. Dean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Feelings of belonging are closely linked to feelings of self-esteem. This article examines whether these feelings are regulated in a similar manner. Research on self-esteem maintenance shows that self-enhancement strategies are interchangeable; self-esteem threats in one domain instigate indirect self-affirmations in unrelated domains that effectively replace needs to directly address the original threats. From this perspective, when self-esteem threats arise from a lack of belonging, indirect self-affirmations should again be both preferred and effective. However, belonging regulation may be distinct from self-esteem regulation. From this belonging maintenance perspective, indirect affirmations that enhance esteem, but do not directly repair belonging, may be relatively less preferred and effective following belonging threats. Supporting the belonging maintenance perspective, four studies demonstrated that whereas intelligence threats tended to elicit indirect self-affirmations, belonging threats elicited relatively more direct self-affirmations. Furthermore, whereas indirect affirmation strategies effectively repaired intelligence threats they did not effectively repair belonging threats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-186
Number of pages14
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010


  • Belonging regulation
  • Self-affirmation
  • Self-esteem maintenance
  • Social rejection
  • Substitutability of self-enhancement strategies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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