What is it about?

What does it take for people to feel valued by others? How do people tell whether others value them? What are their reactions when people feel valued by others, and what are their reactions when they do not feel appropriately valued? Questions of social worth such as these play an important role in many theories of social phenomena, from relationships between organizations and their employees to socio-political conflicts between social groups. However, in these theories, social worth figures under different labels - from belonging, recognition, or status, to exclusion, disrespect, and resentment. We lay out a theoretical framework that serves to integrate and invigorate the psychology of social worth. The theoretical toolkit of interdependence theory allows to describe the goals that people have in interactions with others. These goals, we posit, are the key to understand what makes people feel valued or not, and the social dynamics that ensue.

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Why is it important?

On the theoretical side, our model raises exciting new perspectives on the psychology of social worth. As an example, it allows us to disentangle disrespect experiences that follow from what we call social worth misunderstandings from those based on social worth disagreements - with important implications for how conflicts may be resolved. On the practical side, our model provides a powerful heuristic for psychological intervention in specific situations: By understanding why people do not feel valued appropriately and what it might take for them to feel valued, we may be able to better intervene where interaction dynamics go wrong.


Social worth, and a lack thereof, figures in social scientific and in lay people's theories about many social phenomena, albeit often rather subtly. I hope that this article provides a solid conceptual foundation that helps to tackle social worth-related dynamics head-on.

Adrian Rothers
Philipps-Universitat Marburg

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This page is a summary of: What makes people feel respected? Toward an integrative psychology of social worth., Psychological Review, October 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/rev0000393.
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