This question is similar to this earlier question, but from a very different viewpoint - what I am asking here is, what is the cognitive basis for a sudden loss of confidence?

For example, if a person has been confidently answering questions in a room of experts, a party or on an online forum (or a Q&A site like here), and encounters negative feedback for what ever reason (and what ever the motive), why is it that some will simply withdraw and become silent?

To put the experience in perspective (note: this is not a request for personal help), when I experience it, it is like the confidence goes out like a light, and only rarely does the 'light' come back on.

  • $\begingroup$ I would delete the part about "simply withdrawing and becoming silent" from the question, because there are many other reasons for that behavior that have nothing to do with a loss of confidence. E.g. someone might withdraw because he thinks the other discussants lack the proper understanding, which would be exactly the opposite of lacking confidence. $\endgroup$
    – user3116
    Jul 29 '13 at 13:24
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    $\begingroup$ I believe that it is not confidence that is lacking or undermined. I can know that my answer is correct, and nevertheless feel insecure in the face of an attack. So I am confident of myself, but lack the emotional stability to withstand (unsubstantiated) critique. What is behind the described behavior, in my opinion, is not a lack of confidence, but a lack of self-worth. I rely on constant (!) positive feedback, so I drop into an abyss of self-doubt once it is withdrawn. Healthy individuals can tolerate short periods of social adversity, because they are convinced of their own inherent worth. $\endgroup$
    – user3116
    Jul 29 '13 at 13:33
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting question, and it appears to me that it may be expanded not to just confidence, but other sudden changes in subjective experience as well. $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Jul 29 '13 at 16:27
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    $\begingroup$ @what: perhaps you can formulate an answer relative to self worth, I thin that would be helpful... $\endgroup$ Jul 29 '13 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ @GregMcNulty I don't have time to hunt for references now. If you want, you can find them and post the answer, I wouldn't mind. $\endgroup$
    – user3116
    Jul 29 '13 at 17:31