Self-handicapping status, claimed self-handicaps and reduced practice effort following success and failure feedback
Thompson, T and Birch, AM, Self-handicapping status, claimed self-handicaps and reduced practice effort following success and failure feedback, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 71 pp. 151-170. ISSN 0007-0998 (2001) [Refereed Article]
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.