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Causal uncertainty, claimed and behavioural self-handicapping


Thompson, T and Hepburn, J, Causal uncertainty, claimed and behavioural self-handicapping, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 73 pp. 247-266. ISSN 0007-0998 (2003) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1348/00070990360626967


Background. Causal uncertainty beliefs involve doubts about the causes of events, and arise as a consequence of non-contingent evaluative feedback: feedback that leaves the individual uncertain about the causes of his or her achievement outcomes. Individuals high in causal uncertainty are frequently unable to confidently attribute their achievement outcomes, experience anxiety in achievement situations and as a consequence are likely to engage in self-handicapping behaviour. Aims. Accordingly, we sought to establish links between trait causal uncertainty, claimed and behavioural self-handicapping. Sample. Participants were N=72 undergraduate students divided equally between high and low causally uncertain groups. Method. We used a 2 (causal uncertainty status: high, low) × 3 (performance feedback condition: success, non-contingent success, non-contingent failure) between-subjects factorial design to examine the effects of causal uncertainty on achievement behaviour. Following performance feedback, participants completed 20 single-solution anagrams and 12 remote associate tasks serving as performance measures, and 16 unicursal tasks to assess practice effort. Participants also completed measures of claimed handicaps, state anxiety and attributions. Results. Relative to low causally uncertain participants, high causally uncertain participants claimed more handicaps prior to performance on the anagrams and remote associates, reported higher anxiety, attributed their failure to internal, stable factors, and reduced practice effort on the unicursal tasks, evident in fewer unicursal tasks solved. Conclusions. These findings confirm links between trait causal uncertainty and claimed and behavioural self-handicapping, highlighting the need for educators to facilitate means by which students can achieve surety in the manner in which they attribute the causes of their achievement outcomes.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Psychology
Research Group:Social and personality psychology
Research Field:Personality and individual differences
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in psychology
UTAS Author:Thompson, T (Dr Ted Thompson)
UTAS Author:Hepburn, J (Mr Jonathan Hepburn)
ID Code:26336
Year Published:2003
Web of Science® Times Cited:20
Deposited By:Psychology
Deposited On:2003-08-01
Last Modified:2011-09-27

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