Journal Articles and Book Chapters


Baldwin, M. W., Baccus, J. R., and Milyavskaya, M. (2010). Computer game associating self-concept to images of acceptance can reduce adolescents' aggressiveness in response to social rejection, Cognition & Emotion, 24: 5, 855-862. Full article [.pdf]

  • The experience of social rejection can lead to an aggressive response. However, the ability to maintain a sense of social connection may reduce the likelihood of this type of response. We tested a computer-based intervention designed to use simple learning principles to boost the sense of social connection and acceptance. Adolescents aged 9-15 (n=138) first completed a conditioning game on computer that repeatedly paired their own name with images of social acceptance (versus a control condition with no systematic pairing), and subsequently reported how aggressively they would behave in response to being rejected by a peer. Those completing the self-acceptance conditioning (particularly those low in self-esteem) reported less aggressive feelings and intentions.

Baldwin, M. W., Lydon, J. E., McClure, M. J., & Etchison, S. (2010). Measuring implicit processes in close relationships. In B. Gawronski & K. Payne (Eds.) Handbook of Implicit Social Cognition: Measurement, Theory, and Applications, pp. 426-444. Guilford. Full article [.pdf]

  • The experience of social rejection can lead to an aggressive response. However, the ability to maintain a sense of social connection may reduce the likelihood of this type of response. We tested a computer-based intervention designed to use simple learning principles to boost the sense of social connection and acceptance. Adolescents aged 9-15 (n=138) first completed a conditioning game on computer that repeatedly paired their own name with images of social acceptance (versus a control condition with no systematic pairing), and subsequently reported how aggressively they would behave in response to being rejected by a peer. Those completing the self-acceptance conditioning (particularly those low in self-esteem) reported less aggressive feelings and intentions.

McClure, M. J., Lydon, J. E., Baccus, J. R., and Baldwin, M. W. (2010). A Signal Detection Analysis of Chronic Attachment Anxiety at Speed Dating: Being Unpopular Is Only the First Part of the Problem. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36: 1024-35. Full article  [.pdf]

  • In this chapter we survey the literature on implicit processes in the context of close, significant relationships. We start by considering the assessment of implicit relationship attitudes in terms of characteristics such as valence and accessibility. Then we turn to expectancies and examine people's overall outlook on interpersonal interactions as well as their implicit understanding of the contingencies of how relationship partners will respond to them. Last, we examine implicit motivation and strategies, with an eye toward goals, both interpersonal and noninterpersonal, that tend to be implicitly activated in a given relational context for a given individual and how this might vary as a function of insecurity and relationship commitment.

Ronen, R., and Baldwin, M. W. (2010). Hypersensitivity to Social Rejection and Perceived Stress as Mediators between Attachment Anxiety and Future Burnout: A Prospective Analysis. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 59 (3), 380–403. Full article [.pdf]

  • Drawing on Sociometer Theory, the current study examined whether the tendency to focus on and worry about social rejection at the workplace can predict stress and burnout. Data were collected at two time points from 231 hotel employees. Prospective-longitudinal design, structural equation modeling analyses revealed that participants’ hypersensitivity to social rejection at the workplace predicted an increase in stress and in burnout across the 1 month of participation. Furthermore, the findings revealed that hypersensitivity to social rejection fully mediated the link between attachment anxiety and future stress and that hypersensitivity to social rejection and stress fully mediated the link between attachment anxiety and future burnout. Approximately 64 per cent of the variance in future burnout was explained by these variables. The results demonstrate the significant role social evaluative stressors play in the development of stress responses at the workplace.


Dandeneau, S. D., & Baldwin, M. W. (2009). The buffering effects of rejection-inhibiting attentional training on social and performance threat among adult students. Contemporary Educational Psychology. Full article [.pdf]

  • Concerns about social rejection can be disruptive in an academic context. We set out to train a positive cognitive habit that would buffer against social and performance threat thereby making students less vulnerable and more resilient to rejection. Participants from adult education centers (n = 150) were first trained to inhibit rejection using a specially designed computer task, and were then taken through a rejection and failure manipulation. Results showed that of the most vulnerable participants with low explicit and low implicit self-esteem, those in the experimental conditions exhibited significantly less vigilance for rejection compared to their counterparts in the control condition. The attentional training also made participants with low explicit self-esteem feel less rejected after a rejection manipulation and less willing to perseverate on a virtually impossible anagrams task. Finally participants in the experimental conditions reported less interfering thoughts of being rejected while completing difficult anagrams and overall higher state self-esteem after having been rejected and experiencing failure. The results show that training positive social cognitions can have beneficial self-regulatory outcomes in response to social and performance threat in a school context.


Baldwin, M. W. (2007). On priming security and insecurity. Psychological Inquiry, 18, 157–162. Full article  [.pdf]

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Baldwin, M. W., Baccus, J. R., Dandeneau, S. D., & Sakellaropoulo, M. (2007). Time for some new tools: Toward the application of learning approaches to the study of interpersonal cognition. To appear in J. Wood, J. Holmes, & A. Tesser (Eds.), The Self and Social Relationships, Psychology Press.

  • In our lab we have been exploring the usefulness of what might broadly be termed learning paradigms. Bargh and Ferguson (2000), in their provocative article showing the links between behaviorism and the current social cognitive literature, examined such notions as activation, automatic and implicit processing, and the situational control of behavior, to conclude that many of the assumptions of social cognition are consistent with those typically associated with learning theory. We share this view, and we have begun to press beyond this and ask whether conditioning paradigms and the like might therefore be handy tools for examining cognition about relationships. After all, if activation patterns of social knowledge play a key role in interpersonal life, might it be possible and beneficial to find ways of modifying those activation patterns in a relatively enduring way?

Pruessner, J.C., Wuethrich, S., & Baldwin, M.W. (2007). The stress of low self-esteem: On the relationship between personality factors and stress responsivity. In G. Fink (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Stress (2nd Edition), Oxford, UK: Elsevier.

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Dandeneau, S. D., Baldwin, M. W., Baccus, J. R., Sakellaropoulo, M., & Pruessner, J. C. (2007). Cutting Stress Off at the Pass: Reducing Vigilance and Responsiveness to Social Threat by Manipulating Attention. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 651-666. Full article [.pdf]

  • Personality processes relating to social perception have been shown to play a significant role in the experience of stress. In 5 studies, the authors demonstrate that early stage attentional processes influence the perception of social threat and modify the human stress response. The authors first show that cortisol release in response to a stressful situation correlates with selective attention toward social threat. Second, the authors show in 2 laboratory studies that this attentional pattern, most evident among individuals with low self-esteem, can be modified with a repetitive training task. Next, in a field study, students trained to modify their attentional pattern to reduce vigilance for social threat showed lower self-reported stress related to their final exam. In a final field study with telemarketers, the attentional training task led to increased self-esteem, decreased cortisol and perceived stress responses, higher confidence, and greater work performance. Taken together, these results demonstrate the impact of antecedent-focused strategies on the late-stage consequences of social stress.

Nunes, K. L., Firestone, P., & Baldwin, M. W. (2007). Indirect assessment of cognitions of child sexual abusers with the Implicit Association Test. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 34, 454-475. Full article [.pdf]

  • The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is adapted to measure cognitions regarding self and children in 27 male child molesters and 29 male nonsexual offenders. As expected, child molesters view children as more sexually attractive than do nonsexual offenders. Among the child molesters, viewing children as more sexually attractive is associated with greater risk of sexual recidivism as measured by the Static-99. Viewing children as more powerful is associated with greater risk of sexual recidivism as measured by the Rapid Risk Assessment for Sexual Offense Recidivism. Although not all hypotheses are supported, this study demonstrates that the IAT has much promise as a tool with which to study cognitions associated with sexual abuse of children.

Sakellaropoulo, M. & Baldwin, M. W. (2007). The hidden sides of self-esteem: Two dimensions of implicit self-esteem and their relation to narcissistic reactions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43, 995-1001. Full article [.pdf]

  • Implicit, or nonconscious, self-esteem is often assumed to involve a unidimensional evaluation of the self. Our studies demonstrate that implicit self-esteem is in fact multifaceted and can be divided into at least two dimensions, which we term self-liking and self-attractiveness. Among participants for whom narcissistic thoughts and feelings were experimentally activated, we found that the two dimensions of implicit self-esteem were differentially associated with self-reported narcissism (Study 1) and feelings of aggressiveness (Study 2). In particular, narcissistic reactions were predicted by the combination of a high level of implicit self-attractiveness and a low level of implicit self-liking. These findings add to the growing understanding of the complexities of implicit self-esteem.


Baldwin, M. W. (2006). Self-esteem and close relationship dynamics. In M. Kernis (Ed.) Self-esteem issues and answers (pp. 359-366). New York: Psychology Press.

  • It can be easy to lose sight of the relevance of close relationships to self-esteem. After all, thinking about oneself seems one of the most private, self-contained things one can do. The key to appreciating the influence of close relationships on self-esteem, and vice versa, is to recognize that self-esteem dynamics are virtually always, at some deep level, tied in with relationship dynamics -- even when the connection may not be conscious or apparent. I will start with a brief overview of some of the ways in which relationships influence self-esteem, both developmentally and in the here-and-now, and then examine the reverse influence, of self-esteem on relationships. I will conclude by noting that because interpersonal dynamics may become "internalized," they may no longer be immediately apparent to casual inspection or theorizing. Fortunately, social cognitive methods can be applied to reveal the ongoing links between self-esteem and significant relationships.

Gilbert, P., Baldwin, M. W., Irons, C., Baccus, J.R., & Clark, M. (2006). Self-criticism and self-warmth: An imagery study exploring their relation to depression. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 10, 183-200. Full article [.pdf]

  • When things go wrong for people, those who are self-critical, compared to those who self-reassure, are at increased risk of psychopathology. However, little is known of the internal processes involved in self-criticism and self-reassurance, such as the ease of eliciting critical imagery, and the power, emotion and vividness of self-criticalness and self-reassurance. This study used a self-imagery task to investigate trait self-criticism and trait self-reassurance in relation to the ease and clarity of generating self-critical and self-reassuring images, and the felt power and emotion of self-critical and self-reassuring imagery. We also explored these in relation to depressive symptoms in students. Results suggested that trait self-criticism is associated with ease and clarity in generating hostile and powerful self-critical images, while trait self-reassurance is associated with ease and clarity of generating warm and supportive images of the self. Data analysis using structural equation models also suggests that difficulties in generating self-reassurance and compassionate images about the self with self-directed warmth, may also contribute to depressive symptoms. Thus self-critics may not only suffer for elevated negative feelings about the self but may also struggle to be able to generate self-supportive images and feelings for the self, and these difficulties could be a focus of therapeutic interventions.

Irons, C., Gilbert, P., Baldwin, M.W., Baccus, J. & Palmer, M. (2006). Parental recall, attachment relating and self attacking/self-reassurance: Their relationship with depression. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45, 297-308. Full article [.pdf]

  • When things go wrong for people they can become self-critical or focus on positive, reassuring aspects of the self. This study explored the relationship between forms of self-criticism and self-reassurance, recall of parental experiences and attachment style in relation to depressed symptoms in students. A sample of 197 undergraduate students from the UK and Canada completed self-report questionnaires measuring recall of parental styles, attachment, forms of self-criticism, self-reassurance, and depression symptoms. Recall of parents as rejecting and overprotecting was significantly related to both inadequacy and self-hating self-criticism. In contrast, parental warmth was negatively correlated with these forms of self-criticism. In addition, when things go wrong for the person, recall of parental warmth was associated with the ability to be self-reassuring. A mediator analysis suggested that (1) the impact of recall of negative parenting on depression is mediated through the forms of self-criticism and (2) the effect of parental warmth on depression was mediated by the ability to be self-reassuring. The impacts of negative parenting styles may translate into vulnerabilities to depression via the way children (and later adults) develop their self-to-self relating (e.g. as self-critical versus self-reassuring). Hence, there is a need for further research on the link between attachment experiences, recall of parental rejection/warmth and their relationship to internal, self-evaluative and affect systems in creating vulnerabilities to psychopathology.

Sakellaropoulo, M. & Baldwin, M. W. (2006). Interpersonal cognition and the relational self: Paving the empirical road for dialogical science. International Journal for Dialogical Science, 1, 47-66 [peer reviewed online journal:]. Full article [.pdf]

  • Research into the dynamics of interpersonal cognition has established a number of principles governing thought processes before, during, and after a social interaction. We begin this article by reviewing these principles, including the representation of interpersonal knowledge, the activation of interpersonal knowledge in the mind through both conscious and unconscious means, and the important role attention plays in these processes. We then summarize examples of the successful modification of some of these habits of thinking about social knowledge. In this manner we hope to contribute to the development of dialogical science by providing an overview of potentially useful research findings and methodological strategies from which dialogical scientists may draw.

Sakellaropoulo, M. & Baldwin, M. W. (2006). Many voices generated from different positions makes for a boisterous self: A commentary on Stemplewska-Zakowicz, Walecka and Gabinska. International Journal for Dialogical Science, 1, 95-98 [peer reviewed online journal:]. Full article [.pdf]

  • Stemplewska-Żakowicz, Walecka and Gabińska describe a novel empirical examination of one of the basic premises of Dialogical Self theory; namely, whether different I-positions produce different self-narratives. Their analysis led them to discover several interesting findings, some of which stem directly from dialogical self theory and some of which are more surprising. Stemplewska-Żakowicz and colleagues’ article therefore calls attention to several important distinctions between I-positions, including the distinction between explicit versus implicit positioning, as well as comparisons among I-positions, including distinguishable differences in the content as well as the formal characteristics of the self-narratives generated by different I-positions. The authors should be commended for embarking on the challenging empirical journey into the dialogical self.


Baldwin, M.W. (Ed.) (2005). Interpersonal Cognition. New York: Guilford press. Interpersonal Cognition on

  • Presenting state-of-the-art research from leading investigators, this volume examines the processes by which people understand their interpersonal experiences. Provided are fresh perspectives on how individuals glean social knowledge from past relationships and apply it in the here and now. Also explored are the effects of biases and expectancies about significant others on relationship satisfaction and personal well-being. Broad in scope, the book integrates findings from experimental social psychology with insights from developmental, personality, and clinical psychology. Throughout, chapters strike an appropriate balance between theory and method, offering an understanding of the core issues involved as well as the tools needed to study them.

Baldwin, M. W., & Dandeneau, S. D. M. (2005). Understanding and modifying the relational schemas underlying insecurity. In M. Baldwin (Ed.) Interpersonal Cognition. New York: Guilford press.

  • In this chapter, we begin with a brief examination of some of the theoretical foundations of our perspective, present the assumptions of our model, and review almost two decades of research into the basic workings of relational schemas. Then we turn to our most recent research, in which we have examined the possibility of modifying relational knowledge structures. We have come to believe that the next step for the social cognitive perspective is to embrace the insights of learning theory, which from its earliest days has been focused on the processes of change in the acquisition and modification of behavior and cognition. We describe our recent efforts to apply basic learning principles, such as classical conditioning, to the issue of changing relational cognition. We have examined these questions primarily in the context of the cognitive structures underlying experiences of security and insecurity, with the goal of identifying means of decreasing the influence of insecurity-producing cognitive processes, and increasing the influence of security-producing processes.

Pruessner, J. C., Baldwin, M.W., Dedovic, K., Renwick, R., Mahani, N. K., Lord, C., Meaney, M., & Lupien, S. (2005). Self-esteem, locus of control, hippocampal volume, and cortisol regulation in young and old adulthood. Neuroimage, 28, 815-826. Full article [.pdf]

  • Self-esteem, the value we place on ourselves, has been associated with effects on health, life expectancy, and life satisfaction. Correlated with self-esteem is internal locus of control, the individual’s perception of being in control of his or her outcomes. Recently, variations in selfesteem and internal locus of control have been shown to predict the neuroendocrine cortisol response to stress. Cumulative exposure to high levels of cortisol over the lifetime is known to be related to hippocampal atrophy. We therefore examined hippocampal volume and cortisol regulation, to investigate potential biological mechanisms related to self-esteem.We investigated 16 healthy young (age range 20– 26 years of age) and 23 healthy elderly subjects (age range 60–84 years). The young subjects were exposed to a psychosocial stress task, while the elderly subjects were assessed for their basal cortisol regulation. Structural Magnetic Resonance Images were acquired from all subjects, and volumetric analyses were performed on medial temporal lobe structures, and whole brain gray matter. Standardized neuropsychological assessments in the elderly were performed to assess levels of cognitive performance, and to exclude the possibility of neurodegenerative disease. Self-esteem and internal locus of control were significantly correlated with hippocampal volume in both young and elderly subjects. In the young, the cortisol response to the psychosocial stress task was significantly correlated with both hippocampal volume and levels of self-esteem and locus of control, while in the elderly, these personality traits moderated age-related patterns of cognitive decline, cortisol regulation, and global brain volume decline.

Sakellaropoulo, M. & Baldwin, M. W. (2006). Interpersonal cognition and the relational self: Paving the empirical road for dialogical science. International Journal for Dialogical Science, 1, 47-66 [peer reviewed online journal:]. Full article [.pdf]

  • Research into the dynamics of interpersonal cognition has established a number of principles governing thought processes before, during, and after a social interaction. We begin this article by reviewing these principles, including the representation of interpersonal knowledge, the activation of interpersonal knowledge in the mind through both conscious and unconscious means, and the important role attention plays in these processes. We then summarize examples of the successful modification of some of these habits of thinking about social knowledge. In this manner we hope to contribute to the development of dialogical science by providing an overview of potentially useful research findings and methodological strategies from which dialogical scientists may draw.

Ratelle, C.F., Baldwin, M. W., & Vallerand, R.J. (2005). On the cued activation of situational motivation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 41, 482-487. Full article [.pdf]

  • We examined the hypothesis that situational (or state) motivation can generalize from one situation to another via activation by associated cues. In an experimental setting, a neutral cue (a computer tone sequence) was paired repeatedly with controlling feedback. We then assessed the effect of presenting this conditioned cue during a subsequent task on participants’ motivation for that novel task. In two studies we found evidence that cued activation of controlledness significantly undermined participants’ self-determined motivation toward this subsequent task. These findings demonstrate that subtle cues, including contextual primes, can influence people’s motivational state.


Dandeneau, S. D. M., & Baldwin, M. W. (2004). The inhibition of socially rejecting information among people with high versus low self-esteem: The role of attentional bias and the effects of bias reduction training. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23. 584-602. Full article [.pdf].

  • In two studies, we examined the inhibition of rejection information. In Study 1, we developed a Rejection Stroop task with the purpose of measuring an attentional bias to rejection words hypothesized to characterize individuals with low self-esteem. Results indicated that people with low self-esteem experienced significantly more interference on rejection words than on acceptance words, whereas for people with high self-esteem there was no such difference. In Study 2, we developed a task to train the response of inhibiting rejection information by repeatedly identifying the smiling/accepting face in a 4 × 4 matrix of frowning faces. Results showed that after this inhibition training, people with chronic low self-esteem experienced significantly less interference on rejection words on the Rejection Stroop than their counterparts in the control condition. People with high self-esteem, on the other hand, did not exhibit different amounts of interference on rejection or acceptance words between conditions. The present findings suggest that it is possible to measure people’s attentional bias to rejection and teach people skills that help them deal with negative social information.

Baccus, J. R., Baldwin, M. W., & Packer, D. J. (2004). Increasing implicit self-esteem through classical conditioning. Psychological Science, 15, 498-502. Full article [.pdf].

  • Implicit self-esteem is the automatic, nonconscious aspect of self-esteem. This study demonstrated that implicit selfesteem can be increased using a computer game that repeatedly pairs self-relevant information with smiling faces. These findings, which are consistent with principles of classical conditioning, establish the associative and interpersonal nature of implicit self-esteem and demonstrate the potential benefit of applying basic learning principles in this domain.

Baldwin, M. W., & Baccus, J. R. (2004). Maintaining a focus on the social goals underlying self-conscious emotions. Psychological Inquiry, 15, 139-144.

  • The social roots of self-conscious emotions may become obscured as the developing child learns to apply abstract standards and internalized norms in their conscious self-evaluation. As Tracy and Robins (this issue) point out, a child worried about pleasing parents and others might, indeed, a year later engage in self-cognition ("I feel stupid") with no explicit social referent. Still, the ultimate source of the emotion is the anticipation (conscious or implicit) of positive or negative social outcomes (see also Lazarus, 1991). This social outcome expectation may not be experienced consciously, as it may function entirely implicitly via overlearned procedural knowledge (see, e.g., Baldwin 1992), however it is the root cause of the affective response.

Baldwin, M. W., Baccus, J.R. & Fitzsimons, G.M.(2004). Self-esteem and the Dual Processing of Interpersonal Contingencies. Self and Identity, pp.1-13. Full article [.pdf]

  • Social cognitive research has shown that individuals with low self-esteem exhibit contingency expectations involving interpersonal acceptance and rejection (e.g., If I fail, then I will be rejected). We examined whether the processing differences between low and high self-esteem individuals would be evident in their most spontaneous reactions, or only in relatively deliberate responses. A lexical decision task measured people's reaction times to positive or negative interpersonal words, following success or failure primes. The stimulus onset asynchrony was manipulated to allow spontaneous or deliberate processing. Individuals with low self-esteem exhibited contingencies at the spontaneous level. These contingencies were not evident in individuals with high self-esteem. The findings support interpersonal models of self-esteem, and confirm that controlled, deliberate thought is not required for the activation of relational expectations.


Baldwin, M. W., Granzberg, A. & Pritchard, E.T. (2003). Cued Activation of Relational Schemas: Self-Evaluation and Gender Effects. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 35, 153-163. Full article [.pdf]

  • In two studies, men's and women's self-evaluative responses following presentation of rejection and acceptance cues were examined. Two different conditioning procedures were utilized to associate computer-generated tones with images of social rejection or acceptance. When these tones were played later in a self-evaluative situation, women tended to respond to rejection cues by becoming more self-critical, and to acceptance cues by becoming less self-critical. On some indicators, men responded in the opposite fashion. These findings are discussed in light of recent analyses of gender differences in the sources of self-esteem.

Baldwin, M. W. & Kay, A. (2003). Adult Attachment and the Inhibition of Rejection. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 22, pp.275-293. Full article [.pdf]

  • Recent research has identified the inhibition of negative interpersonal information as a critical social cognitive mechanism associated with adult attachment orientations. Sixty undergraduate participants were conditioned to associate one computer tone with interpersonal rejection, and another with acceptance. The tones were played again while the participants performed a lexical decision task that assessed the activation of rejection information. To the extent that individuals were low on attachment anxiety, the conditioned tones led to slower reaction times to rejection target words, indicating the inhibition of rejection expectations. The implications of such inhibitory processing are discussed


Baldwin, M. W., & Main, K. J. (2001). The Cued Activation of Relational Schemas in Social Anxiety. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 1637-1647. Full article [.pdf]

  • A cued activation procedure was used to examine the hypothesis that social anxiety involves an expectation of being rejected or evaluated negatively by others, combined with a concern about impression management (e.g., Schlenker & Leary, 1982). Participants underwent a conditioning procedure in which distinctive computer tones were paired with thoughts of social rejection and acceptance respectively. In a pilot study, a lexical decision task established that when these tone cues were played later, they differentially activated expectations of rejection. In the main study, female participants interacted with a male confederate while one of the tones, or a control tone, sounded repeatedly in the background. Several indicators of social anxiety showed an interaction between level of public self-consciousness and the nature of the tone played. High self-conscious individuals tended to be affected by the cues; low self-conscious people were not.

Baldwin, M.W. (2001). Does Bob Zajonc ever scowl at you from the back of your mind? In J. Bargh & D. Apsley (Eds.), Festschrift in honor of Robert Zajonc. Festschrift in honor of Robert Zajonc. American Psychological Association.

  • One of the main issues of interest to me was how cognition regarding the self was shaped by structures relating to communicative contexts. As Zajonc suggested in his provocative work on cognitive tuning (Zajonc, 1960), our thought processes are often shaped by thoughts of communicating with specific other people having specific traits, knowledge, goals, and so on. While I agree with Zajonc & Adelmann (1987) that this profound principle has not been studied adequately by social psychologists, it has received some attention (e.g., Higgins & Rholes, 1978; Levine, Bogart, & Zdaniuk, 1996). My contribution has been to seek some evidence that this communicative context need not be a function of one's current or immediately anticipated interactions, but can be established by the activation of a knowledge structure representing a well-learned interaction pattern. The audience shaping the cognitive tuning of thought, therefore, need not be present in the flesh but can be a completely private audience.

Baldwin, M.W. & Fergusson, P. (2001). Relational schemas: The Activation of Interpersonal Knowledge Structures in Social Anxiety. In R. Crozier & L. Alden (Eds.) The International Handbook of Social Anxiety.

  • The fear of negative evaluation involves images or representations about how social interactions likely will ensue - images that link apprehension about behaving in an embarrassing or inferior manner with expectations of being rejected, humiliated or otherwise devalued as a consequence. The model presented here is primarily concerned with the cognitive representations that underlie such anxieties. In approaching a new situation, what autobiographical memories resonate with the current context, and trigger negative social expectations? What causes certain images or outcomes (e.g., being teased or mocked) to enter into mind so easily, effortlessly, and automatically that they seem not only plausible but also inevitable? What social categories (e.g., 'loser') influence - even implicitly - the interpretation of ongoing experience? How might it be possible to modify the categories that become activated, to replace dysfunctional structures with more functional ones?


Baldwin, M. W., & Keelan, J. P. R. (1999). Interpersonal Expectations as a Function of Self-Esteem and Sex. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Vol 16(6), 822-833. Full article [.pdf]

  • Theoretical models of the interpersonal roots of self-esteem emphasize people's expectations about whether they can anticipate acceptance and affiliation in significant relationships. 182 17-47 yr old male and female undergraduates with high and low self-esteem were compared in terms of their if-then expectations regarding interactions with significant others. Ss completed the Interpersonal Schema Questionnaire, which assesses the degree of affiliation and dominance that people expect from others. Overall, Ss expected response complementarity, with their own friendliness leading to affiliation from others, and submission leading to dominance. Consistent with interpersonal models of self-esteem, high self-esteem Ss reported greater confidence that being friendly would draw affiliative responses from others. Compared with men, women expected more affiliative responses to their friendly overtures, and also expected affiliative responses to submissiveness.

Baldwin, M. W., & Meunier, J. (1999). The Cued Activation of Attachment Relational Schemas. Social Cognition, 17, 209-227. Full article [.pdf]

  • People's interaction expectancies and views of self are shaped by accessible relational schemas, knowledge structures representing regularities in interpersonal experience. Recent research using classical conditioning paradigms has examined the possibility of creating associations between neutral cues and specific relational schemas so that presentation of the cue serves to activate the relational expectancies. In the current study, a lexical decision task was employed to assess the cued activation of acceptance and rejection expectations as a function of chronic attachment orientation. 42 introductory psychology students were asked to visualized relationships in which they felt noncontingently vs contingently accepted by another person; while doing so they were given repeated computer presentations of distinctive tone sequences. Later, these conditioned tones were played again while Ss performed lexical decisions on stimuli that represented if-then contingencies of interpersonal acceptance and rejection. Results indicate that the conditioning procedure had different effects, depending on participants' chronic attachment orientations.

Baldwin, M. W. (1999). Activation and Accessibility Paradigms in Relational Schemas Research. In D. Cervone & Y. Shoda (Eds.) Coherence in personality, (pp. 127-154). New York: Guilford.

  • Over the past decade my collaborators and I have been developing a social-cognitive model of how people think about their significant relationships and the effects of this thinking has on their interactions and sense of self. The central construct is the relational schema, or cognitive structure representing regularities in patterns of interpersonal relatedness. Their research has explored how relational schemas shape expectations, social behavior, and the interpretations people make of their interpersonal experiences. Topics discussed include: basic principles of the relational schemas approach; research (assessing the content and structure of relational schemas, temporary accessibility, behavior and behavioral intentions); and personality coherence: stability and variability.

Hoyle, R., Kernis, M., Leary, M., & Baldwin, M. W. (1999). Selfhood: Identity, Esteem, Control. Westview.

  • Under the rubric of identity, the authors cover sources of identity, levels of identity, and the experience of identity--self-concept. With regard to esteem, the authors discuss sources of self-esteem and a number of relatively new ideas about different forms of self-esteem. They also present research on behaviors motivated by the desire for temporary increases in self-esteem. Finally, the authors cover a number of motives and strategies related to the ongoing activity of self-regulation. Collectively, these themes (and the model within which the authors embed them) provide a framework that encompasses most of the topics relevant to the self that have been studied by social psychologists.

Fehr, B., Baldwin, M. W., Collins, L., Patterson, S., & Benditt, R. (1999). Anger in Close Relationships: An Interpersonal Script Analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 299-312. Full article [.pdf]

  • The authors conducted an analysis of anger scripts in close relationships from a relational schema perspective focusing on the interpersonal experience of anger and on the sequencing of anger events. 51 male and 73 female introductory psychology students participated in the study. The amount of anger elicited by various instigating events was found to differ for women and men. More important, there was evidence of an interpersonal script for anger. Reactions of angry people were predicated on anticipated partner responses. Gender differences in interpersonal scripts were found only when the angered person chose to react in a negative way (e.g., aggression). Women and men held similar scripts for anger when the angered person reacted in a prosocial manner. Implications of these findings for script analyses of emotion and for close relationships are discussed.


Baldwin, M. W. (1997). Relational Schemas as a Source of If-Then Self-Inference Procedures. Review of General Psychology, 1, 326-335. Full article [.pdf]

  • It is generally accepted that the sense of self is constructed rather than directly perceived or experienced. The hypothesis is advanced here that people's rules of self-inference derive in large part from if-then expectancies about the contingencies of interpersonal interaction; that is, expectancies about how other people will react to one's behaviors. If so, a central type of cognitive structure contributing to self-construal is the relational schema, representing regularities in interaction. Research examining the cognitive representation of interpersonal expectancies, the activation of those representations, and the effects on self-experience is described.

Pierce, T., Baldwin, M. W., & Lydon, J. E. (1997). A Relational Schema Approach to Social Support. In G. Pierce, Lakey, Sarason, & Sarason (Eds.), Sourcebook of Theory and Research on Social Support and Personality. (pp. 19-47). New York: Plenum.

  • Examines cognitive processes but focuses specifically on cognitions about interpersonal dynamics, thus facilitating research into the link between interpersonal and intrapsychic factors. Drawing heavily from these sources and other research findings, the authors sketch a social-cognitive framework for interpreting perceived social support, and then apply it to some of the issues in the social support literature. Within this framework, they address questions of whether perceived social support is a global personality style or a differentiated set of expectations; whether it consists of positive or negative expectations; and whether it is a stable construct or should be expected to vary in meaningful ways. Topics include: relational cognition and the role of relational schemas in stress and coping.


Baldwin, M. W., & Sinclair, L. (1996). Self-Esteem and "If...Then" Contingencies of Interpersonal Acceptance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 1130-1141. Full article [.pdf]

  • 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.

Baldwin, M. W., Keelan, J. P. R., Fehr, B., Enns, V., & Koh-Rangarajoo, E. (1996). Social Cognitive Conceptualization of Attachment Working Models: Availability and Accessibility Effects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 94-104. Full article [.pdf]

  • The mental models underlying adult attachment styles were conceptualized from a social cognitive perspective. Three studies were conducted to test hypotheses related to the availability and accessibility of attachment-relevant relational knowledge. Results showed that whereas most people reported experience with multiple styles of relating, the general attachment style they endorsed was related to: a) the proportion of their significant relationships in which their feelings corresponded to the different attachment style descriptions, b) the ease with which they could generate exemplar relationships to match these descriptions, and c) their interpersonal expectations in these relationships. The last study involved a priming manipulation in which a relationship matching one of the attachment style descriptions was brought to mind, and attraction to different potential dating partners was assessed. Overall, the findings suggest that most people process relational knowledge corresponding to all three attachment styles and that the relative availability and accessibility of this knowledge determines which style people report to characterize their thinking about relationships.

Baldwin, M. W., & Wesley, R. (1996). Effects of Existential Anxiety and Self-Esteem on the Perception of Others. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 18 75-95. Full article [.pdf]

  • Previous research has demonstrated that when people are led to think about death, they later exhibit more polarized judgments of ingroup and outgroup members. This reaction has been interpreted as an attempt to defend against existential anxiety by seeing oneself as a secure member of a meaning-conveying cultural group. The present study examined the moderating influence of self- esteem, and found that the polarization effect in response to mortality primes was most pronounced for high self-esteem individuals. An additional manipulation of meaninglessness- anxiety was unsuccessful in producing polarization, lending support to the theoretical centrality of death concerns. We discuss the relevance of these findings to Terror Management Theory (Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 1991).


Baldwin, M. W. (1995). Relational Schemas and Cognition in Close Relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 12, 547-552. Full article [.pdf]

  • There is a recent trend toward the development of a comprehensive model of relational cognition, examining how information about interpersonal experiences is perceived, interpreted, stored and recalled. I present illustrative examples from recent adult attachment research, and argue that a better understanding of cognition about interpersonal dynamics could help to integrate the various domains of relationship research.

Baldwin, M. W., & Fehr, B. (1995). On the Instability of Attachment Style Ratings. Personal Relationships, 2, 247- 261. Full article [.pdf]

  • We examined the stability of ratings on the Hazan and Shaver (1987) single-item attachment style scale in a number of data sets, gathered by us and other researchers. Approximately 30% of subjects overall changed their attachment style classifications over a relatively short time span (ranging from 1 week to several months). The highest rate of instability was observed in subjects who classified themselves as anxious-ambivalent--the majority of whom changed their ratings from one time to the next. Given these findings, we explore the methodological and conceptual implications of instability in attachment style ratings. With regard to the former, we question the current practice of selecting subjects for participation in research based on responses to the attachment style questionnaire administered on a different occasion. Our findings suggest that a substantial proportion would change their style rating in the interim. In terms of conceptualization, we examine a number of different explanations for the observed instability and propose that it may reflect variability in the underlying construct, rather than a lack of continuity in style or unreliability of measurement. From this perspective, an individual's response to an attachment style questionnaire reflects the relational schema that is activated at that moment, rather than an enduring general disposition or trait. Stability in ratings is therefore neither assumed nor expected.


Baldwin, M. W. (1994). Primed Relational Schemas as a Source of Self-Evaluative Reactions. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 13, 380-403.

  • It is argued that self-evaluative reactions are shaped by activated relational schemas, which represent how one would be evaluated in a significant relationship. In two studies the unobtrusive presentation of a significant other's name was used to prime a specific internalized relationship. Under certain conditions, exposures to the name of a critical versus accepting significant other led subjects to report more negative versus positive self-evaluations and mood. The conditions producing an impact of primed relational schemas were subliminal presentation of the prime (Experiment 1) and heightened self-awareness (Experiment 2).


Baldwin, M. W., Fehr, B., Keedian, E., Seidel, M., & Thomson, D. W. (1993). An Exploration of the Relational Schemata Underlying Attachment Styles: Self-report and Lexical Decision Approaches. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 19, 746-754. Full article [.pdf]

  • It is proposed that the cognitive mechanisms underlying attachment styles are expectations about interaction with significant others. Two studies are described that assessed these relational schemata. The first study revealed that individuals of different attachment styles do have different expectations about likely patterns of interaction with a romantic partner in various interpersonal domains. The second study demonstrated the utility of the lexical decision task for examining interpersonal expectancies. When given a related context, secure subjects were quicker to identify words representing positive interpersonal outcomes, whereas insecure subjects were quicker to identify negative outcome words. Methodological and conceptual implications of a relational schema approach to attachment styles are discussed....


Baldwin, M. W. (1992). Relational Schemas and the Processing of Social Information. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 461-484. Full article [.pdf]

  • It has long been one of the grand ideas in psychology that people internalize their relationships with significant others, which influences their experience of subsequent relationships and their sense of self. Recent work in social cognition has largely neglected the impact of internally represented interpersonal information, however, with researchers choosing instead to focus on the perception of self and other persons in isolation. After a review of relevant theoretical models, it is proposed that research could profitably examine people's relational schemas, defined as cognitive structures representing regularities in patterns of interpersonal relatedness. The elements of a relational schema include an interpersonal script for the interaction pattern, a self-schema for how self is experienced in that interpersonal situation, and a schema for the other person in the interaction. Research strategies are discussed.


Baldwin, M. W., Carrell, S. E., & Lopez, D. F. (1990). Priming Relationship Schemas: My Advisor and the Pope are Watching Me from the Back of My Mind. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 26, 435-454. Full article [.pdf]

  • Cognitive priming methodologies were employed to examine whether internally represented interpersonal information can affect the experience of self. In the first study, psychology graduate students evaluated their own research ideas after exposures, below the level of conscious awareness, to slides of either the scowling, disapproving face of their department chair or the approving face of another person. In the second study, Catholic subjects evaluated themselves after exposure to the disapproving face of either the Pope or an unfamiliar other. In both studies, self-ratings were lower after the presentation of a disapproving significant other. In Study 2 there was no effect, however, if the disapproving other was not a personally significant authority figure, either because the subject was a relatively nonpracticing Catholic or the picture was of an unfamiliar person. It is argued that the primes may have activated relationship schemas, or cognitive structures representing regularities in interpersonal interaction.


Baldwin, M. W., & Holmes, J. G. (1987). Salient Private Audiences and Awareness of the Self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 1087-1098.

  • We used self-awareness and cognitive priming methodologies to test the hypothesis that important aspects of the experience of self derive from the way one would be perceived and responded to by a private audience of internally represented significant others. In the first study, 40 undergraduate women visualized the faces of either two acquaintances from campus or two older members of their own family. Later, when they rated the enjoyableness of a sexually permissive piece of fiction, they tended to respond in ways that would be acceptable to their salient private audience. There was some evidence that this effect was especially pronounced for subjects made self-aware by the presence of a small mirror, whose responsivity to self-image concerns was presumably heightened. In the second study, 60 undergraduate men were exposed to a failure experience, and their resulting self-evaluations were assessed. Self-aware subjects' responses reflected the evaluative style of a recently visualized private audience. Strong negative self-evaluative reactions on a number of measures were evident when the salient audience tended to make acceptance contingent on successful performances, but not when the audience manifested relatively noncontingent acceptance. These results demonstrate the influence of internally represented significant relationships on the experience of self.


Kruglanski, A. W., Baldwin, M. W., & Towson, S. M. J. (1983). Die laien-epistemlogie von Kruglanski. In D. Frey & M. Irle (Eds), Sozialpsychologische Theorienperspektiven (vol. 2). Bern: Verlag Huber.

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Kruglanski, A. W., Baldwin, M. W., & Towson, S. M. J. (1983). The lay-epistemic process in attribution making. In M. Hewstone (Ed.), Attribution theory: Social and functional extensions. Oxford: Blackwell.

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Chaiken, S., & Baldwin, M. W. (1981). Affective-cognitive consistency and the effect of salient behavioral information on the self-perception of attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41, 1-12. Full article [.pdf]

  • Subjects with well-defined or poorly defined prior attitudes toward being an environmentalist/conservationist were identified by assessing the structural consistency between the affective and cognitive components of their attitudes. After subjects completed one of two versions of a questionnaire designed to make salient either past pro-ecology or past anti-ecology behaviors, their final attitudes were assessed. The hypothesis that the self-perception account of attitude expression holds primarily for individuals with poorly defined prior attitudes was supported: Low-consistency subjects, with presumably poorly defined attitudes, but not high- consistency subjects, with well-defined attitudes, expressed postmanipulation environmentalist attitudes that were congruent with the pro- or anti-ecology behaviors made salient by the questionnaire manipulation. The additional finding that high-consistency (vs. low-consistency) subjects' beliefs on five ecology-re- lated issues were more highly intercorrelated supported the assumption that the consistency construct appropriately indexes the degree to which individuals possess well-defined attitudes. A comparison of theory and research on self-schemata with research on the affective-cognitive consistency variable suggested that the latter may be a useful measure of attitude schematicity. 
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