Self-Esteem and Social Functioning in Natural Sciences vs. Humanities and Social Sciences University Students
Authors:Kalin Nishimori, Andrea Rodriguez, Amara Schubert, Amara Schubert
Mentor:Kimmy Kee, Professor of Psychology, California State University Channel Islands
There is a general agreement that individuals with autism experience lower levels of self-esteem and show impairments in social functioning. Recent studies have further suggested that autism-spectrum disorders (nonclinical samples with subtle traits of autism) may be more prevalent in individuals who pursue a career in either the field of Mathematics, Physics, Engineering, or Computer Programming compared to those in the field of Humanities or Social Sciences. However, it is unclear whether healthy individuals with traits of autism show similar deficits in self-esteem and social functioning. The current ongoing study attempts to compare aspects of self-esteem (performance, appearance, and social) and social functioning between 30 undergraduate students in the Natural Sciences versus 23 students in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Participants’ self-esteem and social functioning were assessed using the State Self-Esteem Scale (Heatherton & Polivy, 1991) and Autism-Spectrum Quotient (Baron-Cohen, Wheelwright, Skinner, Martin, & Clubley, 2001) respectively. A series of t-tests (two-tailed with Bonferroni adjustment) revealed significant group differences in performance esteem (t(51)=-2.37, p=0.010, Cohen’s d=0.65), appearance self-esteem (t(51)=2.45, p=0.009, Cohen’s d=0.68), and social functioning (t(51)=-3.50, p=0.0005, Cohen’s d=0.96), with students in the Natural Sciences showing poorer performance and appearance esteem as well as social outcomes compared to those in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Similarly, the Natural Sciences students showed a lower level of social esteem than their counterparts; however, this group effect was not statically significant (t(51)= 0.97, p=n.s., Cohen’s d=0.27). Our preliminary findings may potentially increase our understanding of the role of self-esteem and social functioning in different groups of healthy individuals.