The present research aimed to examine the differences in self-concept, body dissatisfaction and gender on student’s fear of negative evaluation among university students with and without obesity. A purposive sample of university students with obesity (n = 109) and without obesity (n = 141) with age range 18 to 25 years (M = 22, SD = 1.63) participated in the research with their full consent. The self-report instruments of Levels of Self-criticism Scale (Thompson & Zuroff, 2004) and Brief Fear of Negative Evaluation – Straightforward (Carleton, McCreary, Norton, & Asmundson, 2006) were used to measure self-criticism and fear of negative evaluation, respectively. The results confirmed a positive relationship between the levels of self- criticism and fear of negative evaluation in both university students with and without obesity. Students with obesity had higher level of internalized self-criticism as compared to the students without obesity. Girls were reported to have higher internalized self-criticism as compared to boys in both groups related to obesity. The findings of the present study are speculated to have sound implications in the fields of medical health profession and education psychology for intervention planned to reduce weight based stigmatization and as a contribution to explanation of self-criticism and fear of negative evaluation in the Nigeria cultural context.







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 one-self 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 others.

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, and pre-social behavior etc. 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. 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 him or herself them 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 relies 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 breed confidence in social situations.

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 unfavorable 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.


Obesity is declared as a global epidemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) and has presented itself as a public health challenge across the globe. It is intricately linked with various psychological and physical health risks, and renders the person vulnerable to develop a range of associated disorders further affecting the well-being of a person with obesity (WHO, 1998). International Diabetes Federation (as cited in Jawwad, 2005) reported that an estimate of 1.1 billion people is overweight and 320 billion is obese based on a worldwide calculation. Obesity is identified as cause of more than 2.5 million deaths per year. This estimate is expected to double in size by the year 2030. Worldwide obesity is one of the fastest growing problems in developing countries (American Public Health Association, 2013; Aylott, Brown, Copeland & Johnson, 2008; Braunstein, 2010; El-Hazmi & Warsy, 1997; Mokdad et al., 2003).

A range of adverse outcomes related to obesity is associated with weight bias for overweight and obese individuals, affecting emotional well-being, social relationships, and physical health. Weight bias has powerful implications for emotional well-being. Weight-based teasing and victimization is related to poorer body image, lower self-esteem, and higher risk of depression (Davison & Birch, 2002; Eisenberg, Neumark-Sztainer, & Story, 2003; Friedman et al., 2012; Hayden‐Wade et al., 2012; Myers & Rosen, 1999). Youth with obesity who experience weight-based victimization from peers are two to three times more likely to engage in suicidal thoughts and behavior (Eisenberg, et al., 2003).

This lack of emotional well-being puts the individual with obesity at risk of being overly critical of himself and assumes others as holding negative views towards him as well. Obesity thus hampers the individual from developing healthy interpersonal bonds with peers and family and this factor contributes towards the development of Self concept and fear of negative evaluation in the obese individuals (Hill & Williams, 1998; Latif, Khan & Farooq, 2011; Schwartz & Brownell, 2004; Strauss & Pollack, 2003; Vander Wal & Thomas, 2004).

The present study was aimed at self concept and fear of negative evaluation as present in the university students with and without obesity. University life is a very challenging time in a student’s academic as well as personal life. The range of exposure it offers in the social domain as well as to the world of academia is overwhelming.

  1. To determine if both comparative and internalized levels of self concept are significantly correlated with the fear of negative evaluation.
  2. To identify the difference in the presence of comparative and internalized self concept, and fear of negative evaluation among girls and boys.
  3. To find the relationship between internalized self concept and comparative self concept, fear of negative evaluation and obesity among university students.

Hypothesis One

Comparative and internalized self concept is positively related with fear of negative evaluation among the students with obesity.

Hypothesis Two

Internalized self concept is higher in girls as compared to boys in both groups


Findings from this study should contribute in clinical settings where the knowledge that self concept, Body dissatisfaction and gender on students fear of negative evaluations are experienced commonly among youth, and the identified vulnerable population of girls and individuals with obesity, could help facilitate clinical investigation and treatment plans sensitive to these issues.


The instruments used for the measurement self concept and fear of negative evaluation, respectively are self-report measures. This increases the chance of biasness in responses. The Self concept subscale of the Depressive Experiences Questionnaire could also be used to provide more reliable results for self concept. Qualitative research on the issues of self concept and fear of negative evaluation would provide a wider range of insight into these phenomena.

The age range of the sample in the present study is limited to only young adults. This research does not provide evidence of the existence and extent of self concept and fear of negative evaluation as present in other age groups. A larger sample including a wider age range used in the study would increase the generalization potential of the results.

This research is limited to the students of the Lagos state University and students of the University of Lagos.


Self Concept: One’s self-concept is a collection of beliefs about oneself. Generally, self-concept embodies the answer to “Who am I?”. Self-concept is distinguishable from self-awareness, which refers to the extent to which self-knowledge is defined, consistent, and currently applicable to one’s attitudes and dispositions

Body dissatisfaction: negative subjective evaluation of the weight and shape of one’s own body. Body dissatisfaction predicts the onset, severity, and treatment outcomes of eating disorders. A core component of body dissatisfaction is appearance-based social comparisons.

Student: a person who is studying at a university or other place of higher education.

Negative evaluation: Fear of negative evaluation (FNE) is a psychological construct reflecting “apprehension about others’ evaluations, distress over negative evaluations by others, and the expectation that others would evaluate one negatively


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