Self esteem is one’s own feeling of worthyness, and there are various scales measuring this (see also the PsyToolkit implementation of Rosenberg’s scale).

The advantages of this scale over Rosenberg’s are (in my opinion):

  • This scale is has clearer data on averages in the adult population, which are available in the paper of Heatherton and Polivy (1991).

  • Whereas the Rosenberg scoring varies from paper to paper, here they use a clear 5 point scale with results healthy adults. Each item is scored on a 5-point scale (1 = not at all, 2 = a little bit, 3 = somewhat, 4 = very much, and 5 = extremely).

  • The scale includes three facets of self esteem: Appearance, Performance, and Social (you need to read the Heatherton and Polivy paper to understand why the authors believe the scale measures this, which has to do with their statistical factor analysis).

Further, the authors state (p.908):

We found that the scale is evidence of attitudinal and motivational consequences. Journal of psychometrically sound and that it displays considerable concurrent and discriminant validity in the laboratory, in the classroom, and in clinical settings.

The authors ran a couple of studies. Because the questionnaire has 20 items with scores between 1 and 5, the scale ranges between 5 and 100.

In a study with 102 undergraduate volunteers (72 women, 30 men) ranging between 18 and 43, they found an average overall score of 70 points (on a scale from 20 to 100). Divided by the three different factes, they found an average of 25 for Performance (range 7 to 35) and Social (range 7 to 35), and 20 on Appearance (range 6 to 30). You can compare this to your own scores if you run the demo test.

Run the demo

The scale was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60 (see references below), and it seems anyone can use the scale for their own research project as long as they cite and acknowledge the Heatherton and Polivy (1991) paper.


This is a simple scale question with some reverse coded items.

If you want the sum of only a few items, you give the subitem using the dot. For example, $sses.1 refers to the score of the first line in the scale question (I feel confident about my abilities).

The survey code for PsyToolkit

Copy and paste this code to your PsyToolkit account if you want to use the scale in your own online research project
scale: agree
- not at all
- a little bit
- somewhat
- very much
- extremely

l: sses
q: This is a questionnaire designed to measure what you are
thinking<br><b>at this moment</b>.<br>
There is, of course, no right answer for any statement.<br>
The best answer is what you feel is true of yourself at this moment.<br>
Be sure to answer all of the items, even if you are not<br>
certain of the best answer.<br><b>Again, answer these questions as they are
true for you RIGHT NOW</b><br>
o: random
t: scale agree
- I feel confident about my abilities.
- {reverse} I am worried about whether I am regarded as a success or failure.
- I feel satisfied with the way my body looks right now.
- {reverse} I feel frustrated or rattled about my performance.
- {reverse} I feel that I am having trouble understanding things that I read.
- I feel that others respect and admire me.
- {reverse} I am dissatisfied with my weight.
- {reverse} I feel self-conscious.
- I feel as smart as others.
- {reverse} I feel displeased with myself.
- I feel good about myself.
- I am pleased with my appearance right now.
- {reverse} I am worried about what other people think of me.
- I feel confident that I understand things.
- {reverse} I feel inferior to others at this moment.
- {reverse} I feel unattractive.
- {reverse} I feel concerned about the impression I am making.
- {reverse} I feel that I have less scholastic ability right now than others.
- {reverse} I feel like I'm not doing well.
- {reverse} I am worried about looking foolish.

l: sses_total
t: set
- sum $sses

l: sses_appearance
t: set
- sum $sses.3 $sses.6 $sses.7 $sses.11 $sses.12 $sses.16

l: sses_performance
t: set
- sum $sses.1 $sses.4 $sses.5 $sses.9 $sses.14 $sses.18 $sses.19

l: sses_social
t: set
- sum $sses.2 $sses.8 $sses.10 $sses.13 $sses.15 $sses.17 $sses.20

l: feedback
t: info
q: On a scale from 20 to 100, your self-esteem score is {$sses}.<br><br>
Here is a table with your scores, the range of possible scores, and the scores of the population in the original study:<br><br>
<table border=1>
<tr> <th>Type</th>       <th>range</th>  <th>You</th>                 <th>Population</th></tr>
<tr> <td>Overall</td>    <td>20-100</td> <td>{$sses_total}</td>       <td>70</td>        </tr>
<tr> <td>Performance</td><td>7-35</td>   <td>{$sses_performance}</td> <td>25</td>        </tr>
<tr> <td>Social</td>     <td>7-35</td>   <td>{$sses_social}</td>      <td>25</td>        </tr>
<tr> <td>Appearance</td> <td>6-30</td>   <td>{$sses_appearance}</td>  <td>20</td>        </tr>


  • Heatherton, T.F. and Polivy, J. Development and Validation of a Scale for Measuring State Self-Esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 895-910. Retrieved from here.