IMPACT OF SELF CONCEPT, BODY DISSATISFACTION AND GENDER ON STUDENTS FEAR OF NEGATIVE EVALUATION
Watson and Friend (1969) defined fear of negative evaluation as apprehension about
others’ evaluation, distress over their negative evaluation, and the expectation that others would
evaluate oneself negatively. Carleton et al, (2006) defined fear of negative evaluation as the
apprehension and distress arising from concern about being judged despairingly or hostilely by
Basically people with a high degree of fear of negative evaluation (which can be measured with
Fear of Negative Evaluation scale developed by Watson and friend) are overly concerned with
how they are judged or perceived by other people. They tend to imagine that they are being
perceived in negative ways and they are often inhibited in their behaviour as a result.
This people are also more responsive to situational factors, conformity, pre-social
behavior e.t.c. It may also be seen in every social evaluating situation including testing, being on
a date, talking to one’s superior, being interviewed for a job, or giving a speech (Watson and
friend, 1969).Fear of negative evaluation is related to specific personality dimensions, such as
anxiousness, submissiveness, and social avoidance. Several cognitive models, as well as
previous research, support the notion that social anxiety is derived in part, from fear of perceived
negative evaluation(Clark & Wells 1995; Rapee and Heimbeig, 1997). People with social anxiety
demonstrate a variety of behaviours to avoid negative evaluation (Well et al, 1995) and have
attentional biases for detecting social-evaluative threats (Asmundson & Stein, 1994; Heinrichs &
Hofmann, 2001; Vassilopoloulos, 2005); however this sensitivity to social threats is believed to
be based on implicit and automatic response determined by stimulus relevance (Philippot and
Pouilliez, 2005).Socially anxious people have lower level of confidence in their perceived social
skills (it has also been associated with increased shyness (Miller, 1995), the development of
eating disorders (Gilbert and mayer, 2005), and lower self-esteem (kocovski and Endler, 2002).
Tozzi,F.,Aggen,S.,Neal,B.,Anderson,C.,Mazzeo,S.,Neal,M,.(2004) made a connection
between fear of negative evaluation and perfectionism, suggesting that a fear of making mistake
is one of the core features of perfectionism. Concern over mistake can be viewed as a form of
negative evaluation. Succinctly put, mistakes are synonymous with failure and disapproval.
Social anxiety is, in part response to perceived negative evaluation by others whereas Fear of
Negative Evaluation is related to dread of being evaluated despairingly when participating in a
social situation. Social anxiety is purely an emotional reaction to this type of social phobia.
When patients with social phobia evaluate their relationship, they are extremely fearful of
negative evaluation and express high degree of FNE. FNE has been suggested to have some
genetic components as are other personality characteristics (trait anxiousness, submissiveness
and social avoidance) Segrin, (2001).
As a latent construct, fear of negative evaluation is believed to promote the development and
expression of more general fears, anxiety and psychopathologies (Reiss and McNally, 1985).
This latent fear is partially heritable; ((Stein, Jang, & Livesley, 2002). Given the necessity for
positive, successful social interaction, particularly for persons in fear of therapy (Alden &
Taylor, 2004; Segrin, 2001). Increased understanding of effect of fear of negative evaluation and
its correlates is crucial.
Self-concept is another important variable that we must talk about as it contributes a lot
in determining whether a person would develop the fear of being negatively evaluated by people.
The self-concept is a general term used to refer to how someone thinks about or perceives
himself.The self-concept can be defined as an organised knowledge structure or cognitive
schema that contains all known information about the self, including past experiences, current
knowledge, feelings, beliefs and self-evaluations (Markus, 1977). While the self-concept was
once conceptualised as a stable, generalised view of the self, it is now viewed as a dynamic and
multifaceted structure, which influences areas as diverse as self-regulation, goal setting,
information processing, affect regulation, motivation, social perception, situation and partner
choice, interaction strategies, and reactions to feedback (Markus &Wurf, 1987). This dynamic
conceptualisation allowed for the observation that an individual’s self-concept could alter based
on their currently accessible thoughts, attitudes and beliefs, which may be influenced by factors
such as their current motivational state or social surroundings (Markus &Wurf, 1987). Self-
concept can be conceptualized in terms of both content and structure, that is how the person
views themselves and how this self-relevant information is organized. Social cognitive
researchers have found out that people vary in the stability of their self-concept (Campbell et al,
1996), and propose that an unstable self-concept results in sensitivity and susceptibility to self-
relevant feedback (Campbell,1990). Psychologist, Carl Rogers (1951), was the first to establish
the notion of self-concept. According to Rogers, everyone strives to reach an ‘’ideal self’’ (the
closer one is to their ideal self, the happier one will be)
Those who are unable to attain this goal may exhibit the fear of being negatively
evaluated by others and most times they tend to avoid socially evaluative situations. Rogers
claims that one factor in a person’s happiness is the “Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR) from
others. UPR often occur in close of familial relationship, and involves a consistent level of
attention regardless of the recipient emotion. According to Rogers, psychologically healthy
people actively move away from roles created by others expectations and instead look within
themselves for validation. On the other hand neurotic people have self-concept that do not match
their own experiences. They are afraid to accept their own experiences as valid, so they distort
them, either to protect themselves or to win approval from others. One important theory related
to self-concept is self-categorization theory (SCT), which states that self-concept consist of at
least two levels, a personal identity and a social identity. In other words ones self-evaluation rely
on both self-perception and how others perceive them. If one perceives oneself as being
incompetent, this negative self-evaluation would affect the person’s behaviour or disposition
probably negatively in the same hand, positive self-evaluation breeds confidence in social
The temporary self-appraisal theory supports the above notion; it posits that people have a
tendency to maintain a positive self-evaluation by distancing themselves from their negative self
and paying more attention to their positive one.
Body image is the perception that a person has of their physical self and the thoughts and
feelings that result from that perception. These feelings can be positive, negative or both and are
influenced by individuals and environmental factors
According to National Eating Disorders Collaboration (2014), there are four aspects of
body image; it includes:
(1) The perceptual body image which has to do with how one sees oneself. This is not always a
correct representation of how one actually looks. For example, a person may perceive his/her
self as overweight when they are actually underweight.
(2) The affective body image which has to do with the way one feels about one’s body. It
relates to the amount of satisfaction or dissatisfaction one feels about one’s shape, weight and
individual body parts.
(3) The cognitive body image entails how one thinks about his or her body. This can lead to
preoccupation with body shape and weight. For example, some people believe they will feel
better about themselves if they are thinner or more muscular.
(4) Behavioural body image which entails the several behaviours one engages in as a result of
one’s body image. When people are dissatisfied with the way they look, they may isolate
themselves because they feel bad about their appearance or employ destructive behaviours (e.g
excessive exercising, disordered eating) as a means to change their appearance.
Positive body image is important because it is one of the protection factors which can
make a person more resilient to eating disorders, body dimorphic disorder, excessive exercise
and other unfavourable behaviours. Positive body image occurs when a person is able to accept,
appreciate and respect his or her body. Personal appearance is very important to everyone. It may
influence how one feels about oneself, how one interacts with others, how one pays attention to
one’s appearance on a daily basis, and what behaviours one practices in order to maintain one’s
image (Sloan, 1995).
Body dissatisfaction on the other hand, is a negative feeling about oneself, beauty, figure, colour,
weight, height etc,(Obi, 2006).Body dissatisfaction is an internal process but can be influenced
by several external factors. For example, family, friends, acquaintances, teachers and the media
all have an impact on how a person sees and feels about themselves and their appearance.
Individuals in appearance oriented environments or those who receive negative feedback about
their appearance are at an increased risk of body dissatisfaction.
One of the most common external contributors to body dissatisfaction is the media.
People of all ages are bombarded with images through TV, magazine, internet and advertising.
These images often promote unrealistic, unobtainable and highly stylized appearance ideals
which have been fabricated by stylists, art teams, and digital manipulation and cannot be
achieved in real life settings. Those who feel they don’t measure up to these images can
experience intense body dissatisfaction which is damaging to their psychological and physical
wellbeing. Maynard (1998) noted that the core component of body dissatisfaction is appearance
based social comparisons. Rebecca Glauert and Gill Rhodes recently reported that all women are
biased to spontaneously direct their attention to the bodies of thin women (Glauert ,et al, 2010).
Nevertheless, this attentional bias is not restricted to women alone. Men are equally
victims of appearance-based social comparison. The more dissatisfied a man is with his body, the
more he attends to the bodies of thin men. Women don’t appear to show this bias when they look
at the bodies of men and men don’t seem to show it when they look at women (Joseph et al
2011). They reported that females showed a greater dissatisfaction with their current figures in
relation to their perception of men’s ideals preference. Cohn and Adler (1992) found similar
results and discussed the tremendous pressure placed on women to seek this idealistic shape.
Gender which is one of the focuses of the study was defined by Santrock (2006) as the
social and psychological dimension of being male or female. He opined that two aspects of
gender exist which are;
(1) Gender role, which refers to a set of expectation that describes how female and males should
think, act and feel.
(2) Gender identify, which refers to the sense of being female or male, which most children
acquire early in life.
Santrock, (2006) proposing gender role as an aspect of gender, supports the sociological point of
view that gender role adopted during childhood normally continue into adulthood. Franzoi 7
(2002) posited that gender identity is the knowledge that one is a male or a female and the
internalization of this fact into one’s self-concept.
The different gender roles can lead to explaining whether males are more concerned with
their social-appearance or the opposite females engaging more in eating disorders, excessive
exercising in other to attain the “ideal body” in other to avert being negatively evaluated.
As earlier stated, gender role and gender identity are the major aspects of gender that exist,
according to Santrock (2006) and Franzoi (2000) will enlighten one on who between the female
and male will play more role in engaging more on appearance oriented tasks in order to be
Statement of the Problem
Many young people find it difficult to express themselves. This is largely because they are
apprehensive of how others will judge them. Consequently, they are hindered in social settings.
This research work focuses on secondary school students to ascertain how self concept, body
dissatisfaction, and gender impacts on students’ fear of negative evaluation. For example, does
the high level of shyness, timidity, social avoidance behaviour among some secondary school
students have something to do with their self perception, body image and their gender? The
problems that this study set on were:
(1) Will self-concept significantly play a role in fear of negative evaluation?
(2) Will body dissatisfaction significantly play a role in fear of negative evaluation?
(3) Will gender significantly play a role in fear of negative evaluation?
Purpose of Study
The present study is aimed at examining the roles of 8
(1) Self-concept in Fear of Negative Evaluation.
(2) Body dissatisfaction in Fear of Negative Evaluation.
(3) Gender in Fear of Negative Evaluation.
Operational Definition of Terms
(1) Fear of Negative Evaluation: This refers to the apprehension about others’ evaluation,
distress over their negative evaluation, and the expectation that others would evaluate oneself
negatively as measured by Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale (Watson & Friend, 1969)
(2) Self-Concept: This refers to the idea or mental image one has of oneself and one’s strengths,
weaknesses, status, as measured by Goni Personal Self-Concept Questionnaire (Goni,2009).
(3) Body Dissatisfaction: This refers to the evaluation of one’s own body subjectively through
linked feelings and attitudes as measured by Body Dissatisfaction Questionnaire (Amazue &
(4) Gender: This refers to the social and psychological dimension of being male or female