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How Rejection Affects Those with Low Self-Esteem

Narrator: This is Science Today. No one likes rejection - whether it's a romantic rebuff or a professional snub, but a University of California, Berkeley study has found that rejection sets off the primal fight-or-flight response in those with low self-esteem.

Ayduk: We knew that people who have low self-esteem kind of misinterpret partner's behaviors, react in ways that actually undermine the relationship, but we didn't know at what stage of processing did things start to go wrong?

Narrator: Study leader Ozlem Ayduk, an assistant professor of psychology, says participants viewed paintings depicting various themes, including rejection while being subjected to sudden loud noises. Electrodes measured their eye blinks, which is an indicator of the brain's response to different kinds of emotional stimuli. Those with low self-esteem responded more forcefully while viewing paintings with rejection themes.

Ayduk: It is, I think, the first study to show the link between self-esteem and the startle response.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.