University of Tasmania

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Self-handicapping status, claimed self-handicaps and reduced practice effort following success and failure feedback

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 12:53 authored by Thompson, T, Birch, AM
Background. Self-handicapping involves the strategic establishment of an impediment or obstacle to success prior to a performance situation which thereby provides a convenient excuse for poor performance. Aims. The study sought to establish that relative to low trait self- handicappers, high trait self-handicappers exposed to failure in an intellectually evaluative situation wilt (a) pre-emptively claim more handicaps, and (b) behaviourally self-handicap through reduced practice effort, and (c) report greater anxiety and negative affect relative to low trait self- handicappers. Sample, Participants were 72 undergraduate students, divided equally between high and low self-handicapping groups. Method. This study utilised a 2 (self-handicapping status: high, low) × 3 (performance feedback: fail, low task importance; fail, high task importance; success) between-subjecls factorial design to investigate claimed and behavioural self-handicapping through reduced practice effort. This was done by manipulating performance outcome and perceived task importance. Results. Relative to low trait self-handicappers. high trait high self- handicappers claimed more handicaps and engaged in greater behavioural self-handicapping following failure when working on tasks that were described as potentially diagnostic of low ability. While low self-handicappers internalised their success more than their failure in the high task importance condition, high self-handicappers were undiffercntiated in their attributions across performance conditions. Greater anxiety and greater negative affect were also characteristic of high self-handicappers. Conclusions. The study highlights the self-protective benefit of self- handicapping in sparing the individual from conclusions of low ability, and the failure of high self-handicappers to fully internalise their success. These elements and the role of uncertain estimates of ability are discussed in considering implications for intervention.


Publication title

British Journal of Educational Psychology








School of Psychological Sciences


The British Psychological Society

Place of publication

Leicester, UK

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in human society

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