Baldwin, M. W., & Sinclair, L. (1996). Self-esteem and if-then contingencies of interpersonal acceptance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 1130-1141.

An important influence on the social construction of self- esteem is the degree to which the individual perceives interpersonal acceptance as relatively unconditional versus contingent on one's successes and failures. Three studies were conducted using a lexical-decision task to examine high and low self-esteem individuals' if-then expectancies with respect to contingencies of interpersonal acceptance. On each trial, participants first were shown a success or failure context word. Then, they made a word/nonword judgment on another letter string which sometimes was a target word relating to interpersonal acceptance or rejection. Study 1 showed that for low self-esteem participants, success and failure contexts facilitated the processing of acceptance and rejection target words, respectively, thus revealing associations between performance and social outcomes. Study 2 demonstrated that the finding could not be explained as a simple valence- congruency effect. Study 3 demonstrated that the lexical- decision pattern was stronger for people who had recently been primed with a relationship in which acceptance was highly conditional, as opposed to one based more on unconditional acceptance. These studies contribute to a social cognitive formulation of the role that accessible relational schemas play in the social construction of self- esteem.