Neurophysiological and behavioral evidence that self-uncertainty salience increases self-esteem striving

Qing Yang, Oscar Ybarra, Kees Van den Bos, Yufang Zhao, Lili Guan, Yunfei Cao, Fang Li, Xiting Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present research investigated the effect of self-uncertainty salience on self-esteem striving, as well as the corresponding self-regulatory processes. Inspired by uncertainty management and meaning maintenance models, we conducted an electroencephalogram experiment to examine how self-uncertainty salience affects performance on self-esteem related tasks, and how it affects neurophysiological activity related to performance monitoring (e.g., error-related negativity, error positivity) on those tasks. Results showed that when self-uncertainty was salient, participants performed better on a task that was high (but not low) in self-esteem relevance, and these participants also displayed a larger amplitude of error positivity after error commissions, which is considered a manifestation of heightened performance monitoring. Overall, these results suggest that self-uncertainty salience increases the need and efforts for self-esteem striving. Further implications are discussed in terms of meaning compensation and self-uncertainty management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-73
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Psychology
StatePublished - Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Error positivity
  • Error-related negativity
  • Meaning maintenance model
  • Performance monitoring
  • Self-esteem
  • Self-uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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