2013. Vol.4, No.5, 455-458
Published Online May 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 455
Loneliness and Their Relationship to Explicit and Implicit
Yuanyan Hu1,2, Yule Jin1,3, Chunmei Hu1, Huamin He1*
1School of Education, Chongqing University of Arts and Sciences, Chongqing, China
2Laboratory of Cognition and Mental Health, Chongqing University of Arts and Sciences, Chongqing, China
3School of Education, Zhangzhou Normal University, Zhangzhou, China
Email: *,
Received February 27th, 2013; revised March 29th, 2013; accepted April 26th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Yuanyan Hu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons At-
tribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between self-esteem and loneliness, esp-
ecially whether the discrepancies between explicit and implicit self-esteem was associated with loneliness.
In the present study, UCLA Loneliness Scale (UCLA), Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale (RSES) and Im-
plicit Association Test were used to collect data, 113 undergraduates participated in it. Findings showed
that individuals higher in explicit (but not implicit) self-esteem had lower loneliness. Furthermore, we
found that the undergraduates’ feelings of loneliness were significantly related to the direction of the dis-
crepancy between explicit and implicit self-esteem. These results not only enriched the research about the
loneliness, but also the discrepant self-esteem.
Keywords: Loneliness; Self-Esteem; Explicit; Implicit; Discrepant
Loneliness is a prevalent social phenomenon, probably few
people can say that I can avoid being loneliness (Cacioppo &
Patrick, 2008). Especially, adolescents are considered as one of
the highest risk groups experiencing loneliness. As adolescence
is developing rapidly, they are apart from their parents, going to
be individual completely, and having increasing need for inti-
macy (Gürsesa, Merhametlia, Elif, & Güne, 2011). For these
reasons, adolescence is sensitive about loneliness, affected by
loneliness. Many investigators have gained insight into it in the
past decades (Hawkley & Cacioppo, 2010; Russell, Cutrona,
McRae, & Gomez, 2012). By the concept, loneliness, as a uni-
versal unpleasant experience, occurs when human beings feel
the absence of adequate and positive social relationships. That
is, loneliness arises with the discrepancy between individual's
desire and despair. Additionally, the dissatisfaction of social
relationship results in loneliness. In this definition there are
three aspects should not be ignored: first, loneliness results
from deficiencies in the person’s social relations; second, lone-
liness is a subjective phenomenon (Although someone stay
with a group of friends and still feel alone; Even if a person in
the room, and with no loneliness at all); third, loneliness is
unpleasant and distressing (Perlman & Peplau, 1981).
Cognitive psychologists (Segal, 1988) have suggested that
loneliness is a form of internalizing problem which was based
upon ones’ early experience of life, mean while, negative
schemas are including in memory. Self-schema is a cognitive
construct, it is based on past experience to guide the self-in-
formation, especially the self-information processing in the
social interaction (Taylor & Crocker, 1981). Furthermore,
self-schema is the foundation of self-awareness and self-evalua-
tion (Markus, 1977), so negative self-schema often leads to ne-
gative self-evaluations, and self-information was processed in a
negative way. Explicit self-esteem as a kind of self-schema can
be defined as an individual’s conscious feeling of self-worth
and acceptance (Rosenberg, 1965). A bulk of studies on ado-
lescents has demonstrated a negative relationship between lone-
liness and explicit self-esteem (Creemers, Scholte, Engels, Prin-
stein, & Wiers, 2012; Kamatha & Kanekara, 1993; Hudson &
Campbell, 2000). As Greenwald and Banaji (1995) pointed out,
self-esteem not only contains explicit aspects, but also implicit
ones. Thus, it is necessary to use suitable measurements to cap-
ture the two parts of self-esteem (i.e., direct measurements for
explicit self-esteem and indirect one for implicit self-esteem).
The previous studies suggested that implicit self-esteem
could also relate to internalizing psychological problems (Cree-
mers et al., 2012). Implicit self-esteem is defined as indivi-
duals’ over learned automatic and unconscious self-evaluation
(Greenwald & Banaji, 1995). Although explicit self-esteem and
implicit self-esteem are largely independent of each other, as
conceptualized by dual-process models of information proc-
essing, the former refers to cognitive mode, the latter refers to
experiential mode (Wilson, Lindsey, & Schooler, 2000). As ex-
plicit and implicit attitudes are involved in different process and
may lead to inconsistencies of explicit and implicit self-es-
teem, so it is possible for discrepant self-esteem to form: defen-
sive (high explicit, low implicit) and damaged (high implicit,
low explicit) self-esteem (Gawronski & Bodenhausen, 2006). It
was suggested that, compared to congruent self-esteem, the dis-
crepant self-esteem associated with painful internal tension and
unpleasant experience (Cockerham, Stopa, & Gregg, 2009), and
*Corresponding author.
was related to more days of impaired mental health (Schröde-
rabe, Rudolph, & Schütz, 2007) because of difficulties with
self-integration and conflicting thoughts (Stieger, Formann, &
Burger, 2011).
To sum up, the aim of this study was to investigate the rela-
tionship between self-esteem and loneliness, especially whether
implicit self-esteem affects on loneliness the same as explicit
self-esteem. Moreover, whether the discrepancy between ex-
plicit and implicit self-esteem was associated with loneliness?
As volunteers, 113 (43 female) students from Chongqing
University of Arts and Sciences participated in the study. Their
ages ranged from 18 to 22 (M = 20.01). After the end of the
experiment, we thanked the participants and paid them a little
Each participant took part in the experiment individually.
Unique subject number instead of their name was affiliated
with the test results when the data was reported. At the begin-
ning, they were noticed there were two parts in this study. In
the first part, they were measured by the Rosenberg Self-Es-
teem Scale (RSES) and UCLA Loneliness Scale (UCLA). In
the second part, they completed Implicit Association Test (IAT),
in order to examining implicit self-esteem.
The Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale (RSES; Chinese Version:
Wang, Wang, & Ma, 1999) was used to measure the under-
graduates’ global self-worth and self-acceptance. The RSES
is a 10-item measure of explicit self-esteem, the higher scores
reflects the higher explicit self-esteem (α = 0.79).
Implicit Association Test (IAT; Greenwald, Nosek, & Ba-
naji, 2003) was used to measure the implicit self-esteem.
UCLA Loneliness Scale (UCLA, 3rd edition; Chinese Ver-
sion: Wang et al., 1999) was used to measure loneliness that
comes about through a discrepancy between desired and
achieved levels of social contact (Perlman & Peplau, 1981).
It is a 20-item measure of loneliness, the lower scores re-
flects the lower loneliness (α = 0.85).
Data Analysis
Hierarchical multiple regression were conducted to examine
whether implicit self-esteem, explicit-esteem and their discre-
pancy was relate to loneliness.
Firstly, in order to investigate whether explicit and implicit
self-esteem were relate to loneliness, we entered explicit and
implicit self-esteem in Step 1 and their interaction in Step 2. All
the variables were centered before entering into the regression
Subsequently, we tested whether the discrepancy between
explicit and implicit self-esteem was associated with loneliness.
To calculate the discrepancy, explicit and implicit self-esteem
were standardized, and then computed the absolute value of
their difference (Creemers et al., 2012). High score of this va-
riable reflected the discrepancy between explicit and implicit
self-esteem. If the score was negative, it indicated the low ex-
plicit self-esteem and high implicit self-esteem; if the score was
positive, it indicated the high explicit self-esteem and low im-
plicit self-esteem. There were 61 participants had higher ex-
plicit than implicit self-esteem, and 52 participants had higher
implicit than explicit self-esteem. Then, hierarchical regression
analyses were performed, the size of discrepancy (was centered
before being entered into the equation) between explicit and
implicit self-esteem, and the direction of the discrepancy (im-
plicit < explicit or implicit > explicit, dummy variable) were
entered in step1 and their interaction in Step 2.
Descriptive statistics (i.e., Mean and SD) and correlations
between the IAT, explicit measures, and the UCLA loneliness
were computed (Table 1). Replicating many past results, the
IAT and explicit measures were uncorrelated. In addition, the
explicit self-esteem measures employed in this study were ne-
gatively correlated with loneliness, while implicit self-esteem
measures were not correlated with loneliness.
Associations of Explicit and Implicit Self-Esteem with
Multiple hierarchical regressions were conducted to investi-
gate different possibility of interrelations between implicit and
explicit self-esteem. All predictors were centred on their means
respectively before calculating. With loneliness (see Table 2), a
significant main effect of explicit self-esteem was found (B =
0.441, t = 4.56, p < 0.001), but no significant main effect of
implicit self-esteem (B = 15.428, t = 1.486, p = 0.140) or in-
teraction between explicit and implicit self-esteem (B = 0.450, t
= 1.255, p = 0.212).
Associations of Explicit-Implicit Discrepancy with
Subsequently, a series of hierarchical multiple regressions
were conducted to examine whether the size of the discrepancy,
Table 1.
Correlations among the measures and descriptive statistics.
2 3 Mean SD
1. Explicit SE 0.03 0.44** 28.96 3.94
2. Implicit SE 0.15 0.53 0.38
3. UCLA loneliness 42.50 6.76
Note: **p 0.01.
Table 2.
Regression analysis with explicit self-esteem, implicit self-esteem, and
their interaction as predictors of loneliness.
UCLA loneliness
B t
Explicit SE 0.943 4.558***
Step 1
Implicit SE 15.428 1.486
Step 2Explicit × implicit SE 0.450 1.255
Note: ***p 0.01.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
the direction of the discrepancy and their interaction associates
with loneliness.
Results in Table 3 showed that the association between the
size of the discrepancy and loneliness was not significance (B =
0.398, t = 0.352, p = 0.726). The direction of the discrepancy
was negatively related to loneliness (B = 2.621, t = 2.052, p <
0.05). The interaction between the size of the discrepancy and
the direction of the discrepancy related to loneliness was not
significance (B = 1.367, t = 0.125, p = 0.377).
The present study examined the association between explicit
self-esteem, implicit self-esteem and loneliness. We established
that explicit self-esteem is negatively related to loneliness,
while implicit self-esteem was not related to loneliness. These
findings consist with previous studies (Creemers et al., 2012;
Kamatha & Kanekara, 1993; Hudson & Campbell, 2000; Man
& Hamid, 1998). There are several reasons explaining the re-
sults. On the one hand, researchers believed that the explicit
self-esteem was a significant predictor for a variety of out-
comes. For example, explicit self-esteem related to subject
well-being and psychological health positively (Baumeister,
Campbell, Krueger, & Vohs, 2003), but related to suicidal idea-
tion and depression negatively (Creemers et al., 2012). It was
also consistent with the view of cognitive psychology. Resear-
chers proposed that individuals with low explicit self-esteem,
he/she will show more internalizing symptoms, which may be
due to dysfunctional self-schemas existing in memory (Clark,
Beck, & Alford, 1999). For this reason, it is necessary to ex-
amine the relationship between implicit self-esteem and loneli-
ness. On the other hand, the results showed that the implicit
self-esteem is not linked to mental health. There are a number
of reasons responsible for the results. First, implicit self-esteem
restores historically positive self-views (Jordan, Spencer, Zanna,
Etsuko, Correll, & Joshua, 2003) or buffers against the negative
effects of low explicit self-esteem (Bosson, Brown, Zeigler-Hill,
& Swann, 2003), so it only predicts a part of positive emotion
significantly, and does not predict negative emotion. Second,
implicit self-esteem is relatively independent of explicit self-
esteem, which was based on positive self-schemata and auto-
mated self-representation. According to the Dual-Attitude Mo-
del (Wilson, Lindsey, & Schooler, 2000), it was assumed that
explicit self-esteem changes relatively easily, whereas implicit
self-esteem, like old habits, changes more slowly. Explicit self-
esteem is more susceptible to the impact of unexpected life
events, and loneliness largely by the specific period of changed
environment. Thus, loneliness can be pre unexpected life events,
Table 3.
Regression analysis with the size of discrepancies between explicit and
implicit self-esteem, the direction of the discrepancy, and their interaction
as predictors of loneliness.
UCLA loneliness
B t
Size of the discrepancy 0.398 0.352
1 Direction of the discrepancy 2.621 2.052*
Size of the discrepancy × direction of
the discrepancy 1.367 0.125
Note: *p 0.5.
and loneliness largely by the specific period of changed envi-
ronment. Thus, loneliness can be predicted by explicit (not im-
plicit) self-esteem. Consequently, we still lack sufficient know-
ledge of implicit self-esteem. Moreover, the complexity of the
construct of implicit self-esteem may be beyond our imagina-
tion, the existing research methods may be difficult to uncover
the veil of mystery, so we need more in-depth research about
implicit self-esteem so as to really understanding its construct
and the effect on other psychological factors. Those may be the
reasons why explicit self-esteem does indicate loneliness, nev-
ertheless, implicit self-esteem does not predict loneliness.
Although implicit self-esteem does not predict loneliness, we
explored further for the associations of the discrepancy between
explicit and implicit self-esteem with loneliness. Consistent
with previous study (Creemers et al., 2012), results showed that
the direction of the discrepancy was positively relate to loneli-
ness. This means that participants with damaged self-esteem
had higher scores on loneliness than others. There are several
explanations for why the damaged self-esteem related to lone-
liness positively. First, this may be because a high interpersonal
goal for her/himself were deeply set in her/his heart, whereas
the reality did not reach the goal, then the unpleasant experi-
ence occurred. Second, as researchers (Olson, Fazio, & Her-
mann, 2007) demonstrated that individuals with low implicit
self-esteem and high explicit self-esteem were more likely to
rate themselves boastfulness, and over-present themselves, so
they were more likely to exhibit a lower sense of loneliness. Fi-
nally, damaged self-esteem is easily hurt and influenced by cer-
tain affairs. In addition, it results in unsatisfied interpersonal re-
lationship. To sum up, the discrepant self-esteem, especially the
damaged (i.e. combined with high explicit and low implicit)
self-esteem make individual feel loneliness more sensitively.
There are a number of limitations in the present study. First,
implicit self-esteem was measured by only one method of mea-
surement, the Implicit Association Test. Other measures of im-
plicit self-esteem should be conducted in the future research.
Second, when we performed regression analysis, the demogra-
phic variables were not been controlled, perhaps gender and
other factors will interfere with the results. Despite the inade-
quacies, our study proves that the implicit self-esteem is a rela-
tively independent construct indeed, as well as the role of the
discrepant self-esteem in internalizing problems should be pay
more attention.
This study was supported by the Planning Project of Social
Science of Chongqing, China (Grant 2009JY15). We thank
Guiping Huang, Zhenliang Shi for assistance in data collec-
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