Plain English Summary
Background and study aims
Unconditional regard refers to the feeling that one is accepted and valued by others without conditions. Psychological theory holds that when people experience unconditional regard from others, they feel valuable without conditions. Thus, unconditional regard might reduce negative self-feelings in the face of setbacks (e.g., I am a valuable person, even if I get low
grades in school). However, evidence for this concept is lacking. This study tests whether reflecting on unconditional regard can reduce adolescents negative self-feelings (i.e., negative feelings about oneself) in the face of a common setbacklow grades in school.
This study focuses on 11-15 year olds, because this is an age during which negative self-feelings peak.
Who can participate?
Adolescents aged 11-15 years old.
What does the study involve?
Participants are randomly allocated to reflect for 15 minutes on experiences of unconditional regard (experimental condition), conditional regard (first control group), or other social experiences (second control group). Three weeks later, after receiving their
course grades, participants report their negative self-feelings and negative other-feelings. Course grades are obtained from school records.
What are the possible benefits and risks of participating?
We do not foresee any risks.
Where is the study run from?
A public secondary school in the Netherlands.
When is the study starting and how long is it expected to run for?
The study started in November 2011 and ran until January 2012.
Who is funding the study?
The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.
Who is the main contact?
Eddie Brummelman, MSc
Mr Eddie Brummelman
+31 30 253 94 45
Can briefly reflecting upon unconditional regard buffer adolescents negative self-feelings following low school grades? A randomized single-blind field experiment
We hypothesize that reflecting upon unconditional regard, compared to two active control groups,
1. will buffer participants negative self-feelings following low school grades
2. but will not buffer participants negative other-feelings following low school grades.
The Research Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Utrecht University, the Netherlands, 28/02/2014
Single-blind randomized controlled field experiment. Experimenters and teachers are blind to condition assignment.
Primary study design
Secondary study design
Randomised controlled trial
Quality of life
Patient information sheet
Not available in web format, please use the contact details below to request a patient information sheet
Negative self-feelings (i.e., negative feelings about oneself)
Participants are randomly assigned to the unconditional-regard condition or one of two active control conditions.
1. In the unconditional-regard condition, participants are told to think of peers who always accept and value you, no matter how you behave or how good you are at something. Next, they visualize and write about a situation in which one of these peers still accepted and valued you even though you made a mistake or did something stupid.
2. In the first control condition, participants are told to think of peers who accept and value you, but only if you do or say the kind of things these peers like, approve of, or look up to. Next, they visualize and write about a situation in which one of these peers accepted and valued you less because you made a mistake or did something stupid.
3. In the second control condition, participants are told to think of peers who do not really know you. Next, they visualize and write about a situation in which one of these peers was present while you made a mistake or did something stupid.
In all conditions, the exercise takes about 15 minutes.
Primary outcome measure
1. Negative self-feelings (i.e., negative feelings about oneself) measured by questionnaire at 3 weeks post-manipulation
2. School grades measured by report card received at 3 weeks post-manipulation
Secondary outcome measures
Negative other-feelings (i.e., negative feelings about others) measured by questionnaire at 3 weeks post-manipulation
Overall trial start date
Overall trial end date
Reason abandoned (if study stopped)
Participant inclusion criteria
1. Adequate Dutch language ability
2. Attending Dutch secondary school
3. Between 11-15 years old
Target number of participants
Participant exclusion criteria
Does not meet inclusion criteria
Recruitment start date
Recruitment end date
Countries of recruitment
Trial participating centre
The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (Netherlands) Ref. 431-09-022
Funding Body Type
Funding Body Subtype
Results and Publications
Publication and dissemination plan
Not provided at time of registration
Intention to publish date
Participant level data
Not provided at time of registration
Basic results (scientific)
2014 results in: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25367539