high self-esteem and aggression

Christine Polk chrisp at life.bio.sunysb.edu
Wed Feb 28 16:58:19 EST 1996

In article <lab_sakano-2602961622420001 at lsa6mac19.berkeley.edu>,
lab_sakano at maillink.berkeley.edu (Linda Kingsbury) wrote:

> I just saw a newspaper article that may relate to the thread on how "only"
> 50% of women/girls (compared to a greater percentage of males) thought
> they themselves were above average.
> According to this article, high self-esteem may be related to aggression
> -- particularly self-esteem not supported by actual accomplishments.  I'm
> afraid I don't remember the reference for the study. 
> Intruiging, huh?

This sounds like the article I saw in Science (vol 271: 295, jan 19,
1996), which reported on results published in the January-February issue
of _American Scientist_.  The study ("Project Access") is of female and
male researchers, and is conducted by sociologist Gerhard Sonnert and
physicist Gerald Holton.  

A couple relevant observations that the Science article highlights is that 
"While 70% of the men saw their own scientific ability as being above
average, only half the women did."  and
"25% of women (but fewer than 5% of men) thought that in retrospect they
should have dealt with career obstacles more assertively."

This reminds me of a study I heard about (I'd have to dig up the
reference) regarding optimism:  When people were tested on how accurate
their views corresponded to reality, pessimists were extremely accurate,
while optimists thought things were a lot better than they in fact were.  

Does this mean that if 70% (too high) men think they are above average (in
scientific ability or whatever else), and 50% (accurate) women do, then
men are more optimistic in this regard than women are?  Will these
percentages equalize as the numbers (and success rates, recognition, etc)
of men and women in science also equalize?

Personally, I think it makes sense for half the women surveyed to think
they are above average;  only half *can* be.  The question I'd like to
answer (both in my personal life and in this larger scale) is would it be
better to try to be more optimistic or will optimism come naturally with
an improvement in the situation?


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