Core Self-Evaluations

{Judge & Hurst, 2007. The Benefits and Possible Costs of Positive Core Self-Evaluations: A Review and Agenda for Future Research. In Nelson & Cooper (Eds.). Positive Organizational Behavior.}

What are the sources of positive psychological states and behavior?

Judge et al. (1997) introduced the concept of core self-evaluations, pointing to people’s fundamental evaluations of themselves and their functioning in their environment and indicating the four traits of self-esteem, locus of control, neuroticism, and generalized self-efficacy. Individuals might appraise themselves consistently either positively, seeing themselves as capable, worthy, and in control of their lives, or, in contrast, negatively, viewing themselves as less worthy than others, dwelling on their failures and deficiencies and seeing themselves as victims of their environment.

Measures of the four core traits converge with sufficient covariance to indicate a higher-order core self-evaluation concept (i.e., convergent validity).

The four core traits do not display much discriminant validity in their correlations with the three outcomes of subjective wellbeing, job satisfaction, and job performance, displaying similar relationships with these variables (i.e., lack of discriminant validity of core traits).

The core concept of core-self evaluations is distinct from other traits, such as the Big Five (excluding emotional stability). However, significant correlations exist between the core traits of self-esteem, generalized self-efficacy, locus of control, and the characteristics of extraversion and conscientiousness of the Big Five ( i.e., discriminant validity relative to other traits).

The broad core factor is a more consistent predictor of outcomes than the individual traits and provides incremental validity over the five-factor model (i.e., incremental validity).


Core Self-Evaluations Scale (CSES; Judge et al., 2003)

Instructions: Below are several statements about you with which you may agree or disagree. Using the response scale below, indicate your agreement or disagreement with each item by placing the appropriate number on the line preceding that item. (r= reverse-scored)

1= Strongly disagree 2= Disagree 3= Neutral 4= Agree 5= Strongly agree

  1. ____ I am confident I get the success I deserve in life.
  2. ____ Sometimes I feel depressed. (r)
  3. ____ When I try, I generally succeed.
  4. ____ Sometimes when I fail I feel worthless. (r)
  5. ____ I complete tasks successfully.
  6. ____ Sometimes, I do not feel in control of my work. (r)
  7. ____ Overall, I am satisfied with myself.
  8. ____ I am filled with doubts about my competence. (r)
  9. ____ I determine what will happen in my life.
  10. ____ I do not feel in control of my success in my career. (r)
  11. ____ I am capable of coping with most of my problems.
  12. ____ There are times when things look pretty bleak and hopeless to me. (r)


Possible benefits of positive core self-evaluations

Core self-evaluations positively relate to job satisfaction, life satisfaction, and happiness or subjective wellbeing.

What might be the processes underlying the link between CSE and satisfaction?

It appears that core self-evaluations lead to self-concordant goal-setting and goal-pursuit, which increases life satisfaction and goal attainment. People with positive core self-evaluations strive for “the right reasons” and “get the right results.”

Individuals with high CSE view their circumstances more optimistically, set more challenging and self-concordant goals, persist longer in pursuing those goals, deal constructively with feedback and disappointments, and adapt well to new environments. These behaviors may, in turn, lead to their obtaining more complex jobs, finding greater fulfillment in those jobs, and performing more effectively.


The possible costs and limits of positive core self-evaluations

Questions arise about detrimental aspects when people seek to raise their levels of self-esteem in terms of reduced autonomy, loss of relationships, and increased risk of depression.

Self-esteem is positively but moderately related to various essential criteria for life success. Self-esteem is conceived as the person seeing themselves simply ‘as good as’ or ‘not inferior to’ others with a balance of agentic and communal self-perceptions (i.e., conscientiousness, empathy). High CSE people react more proactively to negative feedback discrepant with their self-perceptions.

A positive self-view is not necessarily isomorphic with an inflated self-view.

How do people derive a sense of identity and self-worth from work? Do people base their core self-evaluations on occupational success? Is it ‘healthy’ to do so? Does it matter if it is based on interpersonal closeness, popularity within a social network, or earnings or income?

Concerning interpersonal relationships at work, high CSE individuals may be more likely to establish trust with co-workers and, because they are less concerned with the potential for harm, may engage in fewer political behaviors.

Another area of inquiry is self-control which predicts a broad range of positive outcomes. Self-control is a consequence of self-concept, with locus of control as a significant component of CSE. It seems likely that people who believe they can exercise control will make more effort to do so.