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Implicit collective self-esteem: A comparative analysis of Gelao and Han teenagers.

In recent years, self-esteem, a personal judgment of one's own worth (Coopersmith, 1967, p. 5), has become one of the most widely researched topics in sociocognitive psychology. With the introduction of social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979) and the exploration of self-esteem across different cultures, research into self-esteem has gradually expanded to the field of collective self-esteem (CSE), defined as the extent to which an individual positively evaluates his or her own in-group (Luhtanen & Crocker, 1992). Cross-cultural studies on CSE have attracted much attention from researchers, who have found diverse characteristics of CSE across different cultural backgrounds. For example, Thomas (2017) found that White South African students report having higher public collective self-esteem and lower private collective self-esteem than Black South African students do.

Literature Review

Explicit and Implicit Self-Esteem

With the advancement of studies on CSE, researchers have also begun to explore the structure of self-esteem. In particular, Greenwald and Banaji (1995) proposed that the concept of implicit social cognition might promote research into self-esteem at the unconscious level. Greenwald, McGhee, and Schwarz (1998) not only defined the concept of implicit self-esteem but also distinguished between two types of personal self-esteem: conscious explicit and unconscious implicit. Implicit self-esteem is defined as the "introspectively unidentified (or inaccurately identified) effect of the self-attitude on evaluation of self-associated and self-dissociated objects" (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995, p. 11). This means that if an object is associated with an individual, it will be evaluated positively by that person. However, it is still debated whether implicit self-esteem measures are valid for assessing individual and cultural differences (Falk, Heine, Takemura, Zhang, & Hsu, 2015).

Explicit and Implicit Collective Self-Esteem

Although studies on implicit self-esteem have included diverse samples, such as school children (Cvencek, Fryberg, Covarrubias, & Meltzoff, 2018) and people being treated for narcissistic personality disorder (Marissen, Brouwer, Hiemstra, Deen, & Franken, 2016), very few scholars have examined CSE at the implicit level. One of the first comprehensive definitions of implicit collective self-esteem (ICSE) was set out by Wang and Jiang (2008), who defined it as an introspective, unidentified (or inaccurately identified) effect of a group attitude, whereby individuals evaluate their in-group and out-group. The expected effect of ICSE is that individuals will positively evaluate objects that are implicitly or indirectly associated with their in-group. CSE, as proposed by Luhtanen and Crocker (1992), is referred to by Wang and Jiang as explicit collective self-esteem (ECSE), which can be measured explicitly or directly. Luhtanen and Crocker developed the Collective Self-Esteem Scale (CSES), which has been shown to be valid and reliable for assessing ECSE.

However, contradictory results have been reported in previous studies. Wang and Jiang (2008) found that female college students in China do not show an ICSE effect, whereas Eliezer (2012) reported that ICSE exists among Latino and White college students in North America. Findings on the relationship between ICSE and ECSE have also been inconsistent in previous studies. For example, de Zavala, Cichocka, Eidelson, and Jayawickreme (2009) used the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to examine the relationship between ICSE and ECSE in 262 students at Polish universities, and found no significant correlation between the two types of CSE. In contrast, Eliezer used the affect misattribution procedure to compare CSE in Latino and White participants living in North America and found a small but positive correlation between their ICSE and ECSE.

Similar to research on CSE, the primary focus in studies of ICSE has been on cross-cultural comparisons. Verkuyten (2005) explored explicit/implicit and personal/collective self-esteem among ethnic minorities living in the Netherlands and found that more Turkish-Dutch participants had high ECSE and low ICSE than participants in the other two groups (Dutch and Turkish). Szeto et al. (2009) used the IAT to make a cross-cultural comparison of implicit self-esteem in Japanese and Canadians participants and found that Canadian participants had significantly higher ICSE than did Japanese participants.

Research Background

Given the inconsistent findings in previous studies in this field, our aim was to elucidate the characteristics of ICSE and to examine whether ICSE is consistent across Gelao and Han ethnic groups in China. The Han Chinese are the main ethnic group in China. The population of the Han nationality accounts for about 92% of the total population of China. The Han people worship their ancestors and attach great importance to Confucian culture (Wang, 2004). They attach great importance to blood relationships, pay attention to the use of kinship terms, and distinguish strictly between older and younger generations. The Han Chinese are concerned with group and interpersonal relationships (Ma, 2008). On the other hand, the Gelaos were aboriginal people in the Southwest Yelang area of China in the pre-Qin period, and, as one of the oldest ethnic minorities in China, have a long cultural history. Gelaos attach great importance to their ethnic identity and have a positive and proud attitude toward their history (Du & Zhu, 2010). Worship of totems, ancestors, and nature are some of the Gelao culture characteristics. A large Gelao population has inhabited vast regions of China, and a few small tribes are now scattered into smaller communities (Guo et al., 2015). Living in a concentrated settlement is a necessary condition for the establishment of the clan's organization. The members are usually organized by the clan leader by the means of gatherings at ancestral temples, implementation of family regulations, and burials at clan cemeteries, which helps to enhance the national cohesion and solidarity of clan members (Song & Nie, 2017).

Implicit Association Test

We used the IAT, which was developed by Greenwald et al. (1998) to measure implicit social cognition, to assess our participants' ICSE. This test is based on the principle that if two concepts are closely related, individuals can respond more easily. Conversely, when the two concepts are not closely related, or are in conflict with each other, individuals will take more time to respond. By measuring the extent of difficulty experienced when reacting to different concepts, the degree of an individual's ICSE can be determined. In the IAT, participants use two response keys on a computer keyboard to quickly classify stimuli (words or images) presented at random on a computer screen, into one of the four categories (e.g., Gelao group vs. Han group, good vs. bad), with each response key being assigned to two of the four categories. Although implicit measures like the IAT are widely used, their validity is debatable. Some researchers have suggested using a behavioral approach in which performance outcomes on implicit measures are treated as behaviors rather than direct indicators of mental constructs (Brownstein, Madva, & Gawronski, 2019). Although the validity of implicit measures such as the IAT is questioned (Falk et al., 2015), this method is widely used because it is easy to operate, accurate, and flexible, and less influenced by subjective factors such as social approval and expectation. Researchers recently found in a meta-analysis that procedures to change implicit measures had only weak effects (Forscher et al., 2019), which confirms the stability of the implicit measure.

Research Aims

We had the following aims in this study: First, to examine whether there are ICSE effects in both Gelao and Han teenagers, by using the IAT to measure their ICSE and the CSES to measure their ECSE. Second, to explore whether there are differences in ICSE between the two ethnic groups. Third, to investigate whether the ICSE of Gelao and Han groups is related to their ECSE. Our study framework was based on the assumption that both Gelao and Han teenagers do have ICSE, and that there would be significant differences in ICSE and ECSE between the two groups.



We recruited 169 middle-school Gelao and Han teenagers from three county towns that are considered to be inhabited by a Gelao community. Of these, 86 (51%) were Gelao teenagers and 83 (49%) were Han. Among the participants, 85 (50%) were girls and 84 (50%) were boys. In the Gelao group, 45 (52%) participants were girls and 41 (48%) were boys, and the proportions of girls (48%) and boys (52%) in the Han sample were similar. The mean age of the Gelao group was 15.60 years (SD = 2.01) and that of the Han group was 16.18 years (SD = 2.05). The age difference between the two ethnic groups was not significant, t(167) = -1.84, p = .067. All participants had normal or corrected-to-normal vision.

Written informed consent was obtained from each participant prior to taking part in the experiment. Both written and verbal consent were obtained from the parents of participants under 16 years of age. This study was approved by the Ethics Committee of East China Normal University and was conducted in accordance with the ethical principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. All participants received the gift of a notebook and a pen (valued at US $5.00) for their participation.


Explicit collective self-esteem. The CSES was developed by Luhtanen and Crocker (1992) to measure the degree of positivity of one's social or collective identity on four subscales: (a) membership esteem, that is, how worthy one perceives oneself to be as a member of one's respective social group; (b) public CSE, that is, an individual's perception of how others evaluate them as part of a social group; (c) private CSE, that is, an individual's perception of their own social group; and (d) importance to identity, that is, the perceived importance of one's own beliefs about the social group they belong to. The CSES is a frequently used measure in CSE research and has been demonstrated to have satisfactory levels of reliability and validity. The CSES contains 16 items that are rated on a 7-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). In this study Cronbach's alpha was .79.

Implicit collective self-esteem. We used the revised version of the IAT, which consists of seven blocks (Greenwald, Nosek, & Banaji, 2003). In the first block (20 trials), participants categorize positive and negative words shown on a computer screen (attribute discrimination) as quickly and accurately as possible using a keyboard, pressing a left key for positive words and a right key for negative words. Similarly, in our study the participants were trained to press the same left key for the Gelao group and the same right key for the Han group in the second block (20 trials; target discrimination). The third (20 trials) and fourth blocks (40 trials) included both attribute- and target-discrimination items. In these two blocks, our participants pressed a left key for positive words and the Gelao group and a right key for negative words and the Han group. In the fifth block (20 trials), target discrimination was reversed, so that participants were trained to press a left key for the Han group and a right key for the Gelao group. The sixth (20 trials) and seventh blocks (40 trials) included both attribute- and target-discrimination items; however, in these two blocks, participants pressed a left key for positive words and the Han group and a right key for negative words and the Gelao group.

In using the IAT, it is very important to choose accurate target items (e.g., Gelao group vs. Han group) and attribute items (e.g., positive words vs. negative words). We selected four words that could represent the Gelao and Han groups. The words presented to the Gelao participants were "Gelao," "Geliao," "Geliao," and "Gelao." The words presented to the Han participants were "Han," "Han people," "Han Chinese," and "Han ethnic group." Using an open-ended questionnaire, 100 teenagers (50 Han and 50 Gelao) wrote down 10 positive words and 10 negative words describing their ethnic group. From these words, six pairs of attribute words with the highest frequency were selected to indicate the positive and negative attributes of the group, including clever, successful, and capable versus stupid, unsuccessful, and incapable. The words were randomly presented in their blocks.

In many studies the IAT has been found to be a reliable tool, with Cronbach's alpha coefficients ranging between .75 and .95 (Greenwald et al., 2003; Nosek, Banaji, & Greenwald, 2002; Szeto et al., 2009). In this study the IAT also had adequate reliability ([alpha] = .86).


The experiment was conducted in a computer room where the participants could be placed in individual cubicles. Before testing, the experimenter provided instructions for the tasks, which were completed using Inquisit 3.0 software. Participants completed the study in two sessions, one for the CSES and the other for the IAT. To balance the study, half of the participants completed the CSES first and the other half completed the IAT first.

Data Analyses

An independent samples t test and a paired samples t test were performed to analyze participants' ECSE and ICSE scores. Spearman's rank correlation coefficient was used to examine the correlation between the ECSE and ICSE scores. The t tests and Spearman's rank correlation were performed using SPSS version 20.0 software.


Preliminary Analysis

We used the conventional D score to indicate whether Gelao and Han participants showed ICSE effects, that is, whether participants tended to associate their own ethnic group with positive words and the other ethnic group with negative words. The D score is calculated as the mean difference in response latencies between the compatible and incompatible tasks divided by the joint standard deviation of response latencies across the two tasks (Greenwald et al., 2003). Data were deleted according to three criteria used in previous IAT studies: (a) exclude data from participants whose error rate is more than 20%, (b) eliminate trials that take more than 10,000 milliseconds, and (c) remove participants who take less than 300 milliseconds to complete more than 10% of the trials (Greenwald et al., 2003). On the basis of these criteria, three (1.8%) participants were excluded because of excessive errors; thus, we analyzed data from 169 Gelao and Han participants. We also calculated the standardized effect size, which is known as Cohen's d (Cohen, 1988).

Explicit Measures

The mean ECSE score of the participants was 89.69 (SD = 14.65), and the mean scores of Gelao (M = 90.73, SD = 11.43) and Han (M = 88.61, SD = 11.05) participants were significantly higher than the nominal midpoint (i.e., 64). Apart from the importance-to-identity subscale, there were no significant differences in scores on the subscales of the CSES between Gelao and Han participants. In the importance-to-identity subscale, scores of Gelao participants (M = 21.72, SD = 4.00) were significantly higher than those of Han participants (M = 20.02, SD = 4.24), t(167) = 2.68, p < .01.

Implicit Measures

The results of the paired samples t test showed a significant ICSE effect in both Gelao and Han groups (see Table 1), indicating that response times for the compatible tasks in the IAT were significantly faster than those for the incompatible tasks. Specifically, response times for Gelao participants when the Gelao group was paired with positive words were significantly faster than response times when the Gelao group was paired with negative words, t(85) = -6.60, p < .001, Cohen's d = 0.70. Similarly, for Han participants, response times when the Han group was paired with positive words were significantly faster than when the pairing was with negative words, t(82) = -11.51, p < .001, Cohen's d = 1.17. The D score on the IAT was also computed based on the algorithm developed by Greenwald et al. (2003). Although a one-sample t test indicated that the D score on the IAT was significantly higher than zero for both Gelao and Han participants, the result of the independent samples t test showed that the ICSE of Gelao participants was significantly higher than that of Han participants, t(167) = 9.91, p < .001.

Correlation Between the Explicit and Implicit Measures

We found the correlation between ICSE and ECSE was nonsignificant, r(167) = .01, p = .94. The correlation between ICSE and ECSE was also examined within ethnic group (see Table 2). There were significant relationships between the participants' scores for CSE and scores on the CSES subscales (r = .32-.80).

The correlations between ICSE and ECSE in the Gelao group (r = .06, p = .61) and in the Han group (r = .09, p = .41) were both nonsignificant.


Explicit Collective Self-Esteem of Gelao and Han Participants

First, we found that both the Gelao and Han participants had high ECSE. This result is inconsistent with those of previous researchers, who reported that East Asians have low ECSE. For example, in a cross-cultural comparative study of group-serving bias Heine and Lehman (1997) found that Japanese participants' scores on the membership esteem and public CSE subscales of the CSES were significantly lower than those of Canadian participants, and Szeto and colleagues (2009) observed that the CSE of Japanese participants was significantly lower than that of Canadian participants. Further, Gupta, Rogers-Sirin, Okazaki, Ryce, and Sirin (2014) found that the CSE of Latino adolescents was significantly higher than that of Asian adolescents. These findings suggest that the CSE of East Asians is significantly lower than that of North Americans. However, no Chinese participants were included in these studies. Although we did not compare CSE in participants from Asian and Western backgrounds in this study, our results suggest that the ECSE of East Asians is high.

Second, we found that differences exist between Gelao and Han groups in terms of overall CSE scores but their scores on the CSE subscales of membership self-esteem, private CSE, and public CSE were all nonsignificant. However, on the importance-to-identity subscale, Gelao participants scored significantly higher than Han participants did, showing that Gelao participants valued individual identity or status in their group more than Han participants did. This might be because Gelaos, as a Tai-Kadai-speaking population, have a closer genetic relationship with Han Chinese than with other ethnic groups in China (Chen et al., 2018). However, due to the special importance of their unique folk customs (e.g., festivals and sports activities), the Gelao participants may have been more concerned with the importance of their identity compared to the Han participants.

Implicit Collective Self-Esteem of Gelao and Han Participants

Some of our results for the ICSE measure support those obtained in previous studies; however, there are some differences. First, the IAT scores for both Gelao and Han participants were positive, indicating that both groups had positive ICSE, which is consistent with previous findings (Eliezer, 2012; Szeto et al., 2009). We found that both Gelao and Han participants showed an ICSE effect; that is, both groups tended to associate their own ethnic group with positive words, and the other ethnic group with negative words.

Second, we found significant differences in ICSE between the two ethnic groups, which is consistent with previous findings (Eliezer, 2012; Szeto et al., 2009). The ICSE of Gelao participants was significantly higher than that of Han participants; however, in another experiment we conducted, we found the opposite result (Lyu & Guo, 2019). Therefore, at the implicit level, Gelao participants may be more concerned with their groups than are Han participants, and Han participants may be more concerned about their individual selves compared to Gelao participants. This might be because of Gelao people's concentrated living environment and the unique cultural activities and festivals they celebrate in addition to the traditional festivals and activities of the Chinese nation that are also celebrated by the Han, thus making their group more cohesive compared to Han Chinese.

The Correlation Between Explicit and Implicit Collective Self-Esteem

The relationship between explicit and implicit measures has been a widely studied topic in implicit sociocognitive research on both self-esteem and collective self-esteem. In this study we found no significant correlation between ICSE and ECSE. We analyzed the relationship between explicit and implicit self-esteem in Gelao and Han groups, and the results were the same. These results are similar to Eliezer's (2012) findings regarding the ICSE and ECSE of White, but not Latino, participants. Our results are also slightly different from those reported by Szeto et al. (2009), who found a small but significant correlation between ECSE and ICSE. Therefore, we can conclude that the relationship between ICSE and ECSE is complex and cannot be easily evaluated.

Study Limitations and Directions for Future Research

Our study has some limitations. First, the validity of the measure used to assess Gelao participants' ICSE may have been compromised because we used a classic IAT paradigm. There are other paradigms that could be utilized, such as the Brief Implicit Association Test (Sriram & Greenwald, 2009); however, there is a lack of strong and consistent evidence supporting the validity of these paradigms in cross-cultural contexts (Falk & Heine, 2015). Second, it is controversial that the outcomes of implicit and explicit measures have different structures. Researchers have recommended using a behavioral approach in which performance outcomes on implicit measures are treated as behaviors rather than direct indicators of mental constructs (Brownstein et al., 2019). Third, our results are consistent with those of Eliezer (2012) and Szeto et al. (2009), who found an ICSE effect. However, Wang and Jiang (2008) found no evidence of an ICSE effect in female Chinese college students. Thus, further studies are needed to confirm whether ICSE differs across cultural contexts. Fourth, the IAT is a relative measure and has two categories (Greenwald et al., 1998). Whether the differences between Gelao and Han ethnicities in this study were found because of the two categories, and whether the categories have different meanings in different cultures, are both aspects that need to be studied in future.


This study was supported by the Research Institute of Wang Yangming's Philosophy of Mind and Current Social Mentality, Guiyang Confucius Academy Fund of Guizhou Province (KXTXT201705).


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Hongyun Lyu (1), Ningjian Liang (1), Zhen Guo (2), Rogelio Alejo Rodriguez (3)

(1) School of Psychology and Cognitive Science, East China Normal University, People's Republic of China

(2) School of Economics, South-Central University for Nationalities, People's Republic of China

(3) Educational Management Department, Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines

CORRESPONDENCE Hongyun Lyu, School of Psychology and Cognitive Science, Room 704, Unit 1, Building 4, East China Normal University, Guanshan Xiaoqu, Guanshanhu District, Guiyan, Guizhou, People's Republic of China. Email:
Table 1. Response Times and D Scores on the Implicit Association Test
for Gelao and Han Groups

Group  Task                 Response time (M, SD)  t(p (1))

Gelao  Compatible (3) task   830.21,225.81          -6.60 (p < .001)
       Incompatible task    1014.29, 302.63
Han    Compatible (4) task   751.71, 170.03        -11.51 (p<.001)
       Incompatible task     990.73, 239.53

Group  D score    t(p (2))

Gelao  1.18,0.36  30.03 (p < .001)
Han    0.71,0.24  26.25 (p < .001)

Note. (1) Paired samples t test to compare response times between
compatible and incompatible tasks. (2) One-sample t test to examine D
scores. (3) For Gelao participants, the compatible task was Gelao
paired with positive words and Han paired with negative words, and the
incompatible task was Gelao paired with negative words and Han paired
with positive words. (4) For the Han group, the compatible task was Han
paired with positive words and Gelao paired with negative words, and
the incompatible task was Han paired with negative words and Gelao
paired with positive words.

Table 2. Correlations Between Explicit and Implicit Collective
Self-Esteem Scores for Gelao and Han Participants

                                   CSES subscales
Scale        ECSE      Membership  Private CSE  Public CSE  Identity

ECSE         -         .76 (**)    .75 (**)     .80 (**)    .72 (**)
Membership   .76 (**)  -           .47 (**)     .47 (**)    .33 (**)
Private CSE  .75 (**)  .47 (**)    -            .54 (**)    .32 (**)
Public CSE   .80 (**)  .47 (**)    .54 (**)     -           .45 (**)
Identity     .72 (**)  .33 (**)    .32 (**)     .45 (**)    -
ICSE         .01       .01         .10          .08         -.14

             CSES subscales
Scale        ICSE

ECSE          .01
Membership    .01
Private CSE   .10
Public CSE    .08
Identity     -.14
ICSE         -

Note. ECSE = explicit collective self-esteem, membership = membership
esteem, CSE = collective self-esteem, identity = importance to
identity, ICSE = implicit collective self-esteem.

(**) p < .01.
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Author:Lyu, Hongyun; Liang, Ningjian; Guo, Zhen; Rodriguez, Rogelio Alejo
Publication:Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Dec 1, 2019
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