University of Tasmania
Thompson_whole_thesis_ex_pub_mat.pdf (15.07 MB)

Self-worth protection in student achievement behaviour

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posted on 2023-05-27, 13:26 authored by Thompson, T
The investigation pursued in this thesis tested three assumptions of the self-worth theory of achievement motivation (Beery, 1975; Covington, 1984a, 1984b; Covington & Beery, 1976; Covington & Omelich, 1979b). This theory states that faced with failure which constitutes a threat to self-esteem, certain students will withhold effort in order to protect a sense of self-worth. This occurs by being able to attribute poor performance to a factor other than low ability. The following assumptions of self-worth theory were tested in the investigation which comprised this thesis. 1. First, self-worth theory assumes that certain students will respond differently in situations of high versus low intellectual evaluative threat. Following failure which allows no opportunity to externalise the cause of failure to a nonability-related factor (a situation of high evaluative threat), poor performance will result. On the other hand, where a mitigating excuse for poor performance is available (a situation of low evaluative threat), performance will be enhanced. 2. Second, self-worth theory assumes that the performance effects identified in \1\" above are associated with individuals who have low and uncertain ability estimates (Covington & Omelich 1985; Nicholls 1984). 3. Third self-worth theory assumes that self-worth students do not attribute poor performance in situations of high evaluative threat to lack of ability. This assumption is consistent with the view that the poor performance of self-worth protective students in situations of high evaluative threat is due to withdrawal of effort. The investigation of self-worth protection in this thesis began with an operational definition which involved deteriorated performance following failure and subsequent enhanced performance following a mitigating excuse which allowed students to explain failure without implicating low ability. In order to develop an experimental manipulation which incorporated these performance criteria Experiment 1 reported normative data in relation to some 130 remote associate problems enabling the construction of a difficult (failure) set an easy (practice) set and three parallel sets of intermediate difficulty. Experiment 2 then tested and confirmed the effectiveness of the failure and face-saving manipulations which comprised the experimental manipulation used in Experiment 3. Experiment 3 investigated the relationship between a number of personality variables and self-worth protection. The results of this experiment revealed that self-worth protective students were best identified on the basis of low academic self-esteem and uncertain global self-evaluations. In Experiments 4 and 5 the operational definition of self-worth protection changed. In these experiments low academic self-esteem and uncertain global self-esteem were used to assign self-worth protective students to experimental groups. Experiment 4 re-examined the performance of self-worth protective students after being exposed to failure in situations where a mitigating excuse was either available or not available. This experiment provided evidence of the generalisation of self-worth protection across different performance measures. Experiment 5 then examined the attributional behaviour of self-worth protective students. The results from this experiment failed to provide evidence that the poor performance of self-worth protective students following failure is associated with lower internality attributions. On these grounds the performance but not attributional findings from these experiments were seen to provide support for the assumptions of self-worth theory tested in this thesis. On the basis of individual difference variables performance effects and attributional behaviour found to be associated with self-worth protective students recommendations were made whereby the achievement-limiting behaviours of these students might be forestalled."


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  • Unpublished

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Copyright 1994 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Chapter 6 appears to be, in part, the equivalent of a pre-print version of an article published as: Thompson, T., 1993. Remote associate problems in performance feedback paradigms, Personality and individual differences, 14(1), 11-14. The published article is at Appendix B1. Chapter 12 appears to be the equivalent of an accepted manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Educational review in 1994, available at: The pubished article was at Appendix B3 but has been removed for copyright reasons. Appendix B2 is the following publshed article which has been removed for copyright reasons: Thompson, T. 1993. Characteristics of self-worth protection, British journal of educational psychology, 63(3), 469-488.

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