College students value feeling good about themselves more than any other pleasant activity -- including sex, according to a new study from Ohio State University.
The study's lead author Brad Bushman and co-authors Scott Moeller and Jennifer Crocker surveyed 130 University of Michigan students, asking them in two separate studies to rate on a scale of 1 to 5 how much they wanted to partake in an enjoyable activity, like seeing a friend, receiving a paycheck, having sex, eating a favorite food, drinking alcohol or receiving a self-esteem boost. The students were also asked to rank how much they liked each of these things. Overwhelmingly, they found that students care more about increasing self-esteem than about any of the other listed activities.
According to Fox News, results differed for male and female respondents -- while male students ranked self-esteem above all else, female students rated money and friendships as equally attractive as self-confidence.
These findings are concerning because although students responded that they liked each activity more than they desired it -- a healthy imbalance -- the gap between "like" and "want" was smallest in self-esteem. Research shows that addicts tend to want the object of their addiction more than they like it, and so the results of the study show that while self-esteem is not an addiction for students, it comes dangerously close to being one.
And despite popular consensus, Bushman believes that an obsession with self-worth is not what the doctor ordered:
"American society seems to believe that self-esteem is the cure all for every social ill, from bad grades to teen pregnancies to violence," said Bushman in a press release. "But there has been no evidence that boosting self-esteem actually helps with these problems."
The study further linked heightened levels of entitlement with a stronger emphasis on wanting, rather than liking, feelings of self-worth. This may contribute to Crocker's concerns that "when people highly value self-esteem, they may avoid doing things such as acknowledging a wrong they did".
The article describing these findings, titled "Sweets, Sex or Self-Esteem? Comparing the Value of Self-Esteem Boosts with Other Pleasant Rewards," will be released in print by the Journal of Personality later this month.
Do you think college students place too much emphasis on self-esteem? Let us know in the comments section.