Core Self Evaluations

Core Self-Evaluations. Psychology Fanatic article header image
Core Self-Evaluations. Psychology Fanatic
(Adobe Stock Images).

Core Self Evaluations is a psychological concept that focuses on individuals’ beliefs about themselves and how they perceive their own abilities, worth, and potential. It encompasses four fundamental personality traits: self-esteem, self-efficacy, locus of control, and emotional stability. Understanding these traits can provide valuable insights into an individual’s overall well-being, motivation, and performance.

Core self evaluations fall under the umbrella of basic primal world beliefs about ourselves, reality (the world), and others. Crystal Park suggest that new experience is weighed against these core beliefs. According to her meaning making model, when there is a discrepancy between a core belief and reality, we tend to forge a meaning that resolves the dissonance.

Key Definition:

Core self evaluations are the core beliefs about our trait dispositions that create a foundational framework for how we perceive new experiences.

The theoretical concept behind core self evaluations is that they directly impact emotions and our sense of wellbeing. Edith Packer wrote that “the emotions must be based on some type of subconscious beliefs and evaluations, which are presently unavailable to conscious awareness.” She continues, “when we understand the exact nature of the subconscious thoughts, the emotions become completely intelligible.” Basically, this is the theoretical foundation for psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapies. Packer then concludes that once we “identify and change subconscious thoughts—to the extent that they were mistaken or irrational—the out-of-control emotions change” (Packer, 1985).

We know this concept of formation of emotions as the appraisal theory of emotion. Basically, the appraisal theory of emotions asserts that “emotions are the form in which one experiences subconscious appraisals of objects, people, or events in relation to one’s perceived values, needs, or commitments” (Judge, Locke, & Durham, 1997).

Basically, a key element of many therapies is to find the misguided beliefs responsible for the emotion. Accordingly, identifying core self evaluations, along with evaluations of reality and others, is a key first step to healing.

The Four Core Self Evaluations

According to the theory, the core self evaluations can be narrowed down to four. All other evaluations branch off of these four basic concepts of self. Packer explains that “core evaluations are all-encompassing, and that situationally specific appraisals depend on these core evaluations. Because they are fundamental, core evaluations are implicit in all lesser or more specific evaluations and influence the nature of those evaluations” (Packer, 1985).

In line with Park’s theory, more specific evaluations that conflict with the core evaluations create distress. In order to regain homeostasis, we reappraise the situation, giving meaning to situational specific events that fit with our core evaluations.

Judge, Locke, and Durham identified four core self-evaluations related to trait dispositions that they theorize form foundational beliefs about ourselves.


Self-esteem refers to an individual’s overall evaluation of their own self-worth. It reflects their sense of confidence and self-acceptance. People with high self-esteem tend to have a positive self-image and are more likely to take on challenges, pursue their goals, and bounce back from setbacks (resilience). High self-esteem may be correlated with a growth oriented mindset.

Judge, Locke and Durham emphasize the importance of self esteem. They wrote, “the broadest and most fundamental self-evaluation is, of course, self-esteem. It is the answer to the questions: Am I good? Am I worthy? Am I valuable? The conviction of one’s self worth is widely considered a fundamental human need” (1997).


Self-efficacy, on the other hand, relates to an individual’s belief in their own competence to successfully complete tasks and achieve desired outcomes (Özer, 2019). I define self-efficacy as “our perception of personal capacity or ability to perform behaviors necessary for achieving specific goals” (Murphy, 2021). It influences motivation, persistence, and the effort put into endeavors. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to set ambitious goals and exert the necessary effort to accomplish them.

Judge, Locke, and Durham explain that self-efficacy is similar in meaning to outcome expectancy but wider in scope (1997).

Locus of Control

Locus of control refers to an individual’s core belief in having control over their own life circumstances or, conversely, in the belief that external factors determine life outcomes. Those with an internal locus of control believe they have the power to shape their destiny through their actions and choices. In contrast, individuals with an external locus of control tend to perceive themselves as being at the mercy of fate or external forces. Basically, a belief in control over the unfolding of events. Individuals with external locus of control attribute events to external factors, considering coincidences and other environmental factors to be more significant (Özer, 2019).

Emotional Stability (Neuroticism)

Emotional stability, often referred to as neuroticism, is a personality trait that reflects an individual’s ability to handle stress, cope with challenges, and maintain emotional balance. Those with high emotional stability are generally more resilient, calm, and composed, even during difficult situations. They are less likely to be overwhelmed by negative emotions and can effectively manage stressful experiences. This dispositional trait may be associated with sensitivity in regards to activation of the HPA axis. Individuals scoring high on the neuroticism trait are more emotional labile.

Stability of Core Self Evaluations

Psychologists and personality researchers believe that core self evaluations are fairly stable. They are still amendable to experience but prefer to stubbornly grasp onto the firm framework already in place. Some theories suggest, such as social investment theory, that during certain periods of development key personality dispositions are more vulnerable to adjustment.

Michael Tocci, Patrick Converse, and Nicholas Moon wrote “empirical evidence related to the components of core self-evaluations also suggests that levels of this construct may vary over time and more specifically that factors related to social value and acceptance, mastery experiences, and reputation may influence core self-evaluations” (2020).


Like most theories, core evaluations has a fair amount of criticism. Most prominent is the theory’s narrowing of personality dispositions to four. Basically, core evaluations theory is “mostly descriptive I nature and lacks theoretical rationale explaining why core self-evaluations influence outcomes” (Chang, et al., 2012). Chang and her colleagues found that the core evaluations may be associated to basic approach-avoidance mechanisms, thus explaining the functional nature of the theory.

Accordingly, motivation associated with core evaluations may be tied to dispositions as presented in the behavior activation and inhibition systems.

A Few Words by Psychology Fanatic

According to the theory, understanding these core self-evaluations can assist individuals in gaining self-awareness and to develop cognitive strategies to enhance their overall well-being. By recognizing their strengths and weaknesses in these core areas, individuals can work towards improving self-esteem, self-efficacy, locus of control, and emotional stability, leading to a greater sense of fulfillment and success in various aspects of life.

Overall, core self evaluations are crucial in shaping our perceptions of ourselves and how we navigate the world around us. Taking the time to reflect on and develop these traits can have a profound impact on our personal growth, relationships, and overall happiness.

Join 50.2K other subscribers


Chang, C., Ferris, D., Johnson, R., Rosen, C., & Tan, J. (2012). Core Self-Evaluations. Journal of Management, 38(1), 81-128. DOI: 10.1177/0149206311419661

Judge, Timothy A.; Locke, Edwin A.; Durham, Cathy C. (1997). The Dispositional Causes of Job Satisfaction: A Core Evaluation Approach. Research on Organizational Behavior. Volume 19, pages 151-188.

Murphy, T. Franklin (2021) Self Efficacy. Psychology Fanatic. 11-24-2021. Accessed 9-9-2023.

Özer, Esin (2019). The Impact of Core Self-evaluation on Self-criticism. Universal Journal of Educational Research. DOI: 10.13189/ujer.2019.070706

Packer, Edith (1985). Understanding the Subconscious. The Objectivist Forum, 6(1), 1-10.

Tocci, Michael, Converse, Patrick, & Moon, Nicholas (2020). Core Self-Evaluations Over Time. Journal of Individual Differences, 41(1), 1-7. DOI: 10.1027/1614-0001/a000314

Psychology Fanatic Book References:

Throughout the vast selection of articles found at Psychology Fanatic, you will find a host of book references. I proudly boast that these referenced books are not just quotes I found in other articles but are books that I have actually read. Please visit the Psychology Fanatic data base of books.

You May Also Enjoy:

Shortsighted. Psychology Fanatic article header image


Shortsighted remedies to reoccurring problems may provide temporary relief; but carry a high cost to…
Read More
Self Esteem. Psychology Fanatic article header image

Self Esteem

Self-esteem is a primary characteristic exhibiting confidence in our ability to succeed at life, and…
Read More
Self Assessment Skills. Psychology Fanatic article header image

Self Assessment Skills

Accurate self assessments are the path of self improvement. With proper self assessment skills, we…
Read More

Leave a ReplyCancel reply

Discover more from Psychology Fanatic

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue Reading