Self-Handicapping

http://www.psichi.org/pubs/articles/article_49.aspx

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11 comments
  1. gn said:

    Interesting. self handicapping and overachievement both behaviours inspired by the same motivational force! wow!

    So it is only reinforcement that matters ? as it makes a person overachiever (self worth increases with performance & not ability) or a self handicapper. why do they call the motivational force behind it genotypical? is it not phenotypical as later mentioned in the article- chaotic reinforcement history…

    this brings up another question- nurture wins over nature?

    Feelings of self doubt can send people looking for meaning in life… materialism–( status seeking ? in other words?) . self doubt predicts materialism. ?
    What if the self doubt makes people go looking for spiritual assets instead.. .?

    the last sentence before the conclusion… shouldn’t it apply to the non-materialistic asset- seeking people as well?

    • unawoken said:

      gn, you are covering a lot of ground in your questions, and I cannot possibly answer them succintly. Hence I apologize if you feel I didn’t answer them convincingly.

      No, it is not only reinforcement that matters. The researcher here is interested in reinforcement and hence presents the case for it. Genotypical and phenotypical are metaphorically used and not literally.

      Nurture does not win over nature, see my first answer above.

      materialism != status-seeking, they are related though.

      self-doubt increases chances of materialism but does not predict it.

      yes, it should apply to non-materialistic-asset-seeking as well, perhaps these are relatively harder to quantify, but the researcher did give some subjective measures in the middle of the disc.

  2. Justuju said:

    Excellent study. I think the link made between the self doubters and their choice for self-handicapping makes total sense. Self proclaimed ambiguity about ones ability helps one not look like a total loser in front of the public or perhaps, to fool one’s own self. What is also interesting is that the self-doubter would choose impossible tasks in the first place to make sure he/she would fail (Looks like it gives them excuses for failing).

    The case of the over-achiever is also interesting because I would think that it would give the person some satisfaction in having accomplished something even if it was through special efforts as opposed to having the natural ability. But it looks not to be the case.

    Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on how i address it) I identified quite a bit with the self handicapper except for the materialism part.

    Thanks for the post Unawoken.

    • unawoken said:

      “Self proclaimed ambiguity about ones ability…”

      — It is not self-proclaimed ambiguity, but self-sustained ambiguity.

      “Thanks for the post Unawoken.”

      — you’re welcome

  3. Nikhil said:

    Thanks for the post!
    Couple of things that I did not get clearly – how has he defined overachievers? He says that earlier studies defined an overachiever as someone whose performance on some standard test (??) was mismatched when compared to his/her college GPA. There are certainly questions over whether this is a good way to define an overachiever (what was the test used; did the test used test the same facets of ability that determine college GPA?) ; but in this study they have used a subjective scale of overachievement
    ” However, the scale is called the Subjective Overachievement Scale (SOS), because it is not about actually overachieving but is instead about feeling like an overachiever.”

    ” We decided instead to develop an inventory that would tap the experience of being an overachiever. Our idea was that overachievers are doubtful about their ability, and compensate for this by putting in extra effort. So, the two subscales we created were (a) Concern for Performance and (b) Self-Doubt (the items on each are displayed in the Appendix). We then explored the impact of being high on this two-dimensional scale.
    Overachievers do show distinct patterns of cognition, affect, and behavior. ”

    Did they use this scale to define an overachiever or did they use it to compare overachievers (already defined by some other means) with others? If it is to define overachievers, then he is using his hypothesis ( ” Our idea was that overachievers are doubtful about their ability, and compensate for this by putting in extra effort. “) as a fact and then categorizing.
    If it is to compare them with others, the question arises once more how he defined the overachievers in the first place because he shuns the objective means used in earlier experiments.

    • unawoken said:

      “Did they use this scale to define an overachiever or did they use it to compare overachievers (already defined by some other means) with others? If it is to define overachievers, then he is using his hypothesis ( ” Our idea was that overachievers are doubtful about their ability, and compensate for this by putting in extra effort. “) as a fact and then categorizing.”

      — yes I think he used this scale to define overachievers. And no I do not think that he is assuming his hypothesis by doing so. “Overachievers” are those who think of themselves as overachievers. And, they also turn out, to not be very happy about their efforts and results, which is the confirmation of the hypothesis. I do not see any circularity.

      • Nikhil said:

        ” “Overachievers” are those who think of themselves as overachievers. And, they also turn out, to not be very happy about their efforts and results, which is the confirmation of the hypothesis. I do not see any circularity. ”
        The questions in the scale are about concern over performance and self doubt. They will tell you if the person has any of those two attributes and how much of them he has. How will this indicate whether he feels he is an overachiever?

      • unawoken said:

        Nikhil,
        I think I understand the confusion. The way I understand it, this

        “the scale is called the Subjective Overachievement Scale (SOS), because it is not about actually overachieving but is instead about feeling like an overachiever.”

        means that they asked people to rate themselves on an overachievement scale. And then, they asked them questions about their satisfaction, happiness, self-worth related etc., and then correlated that with how they rated themselves on the overachievement scale. Does that answer your Q?

  4. Nikhil Thatte said:

    Not really. Because if you see the scale at the end of the article, none of the questions ask participants to rate themselves on overachievement. They go straight into the latter aspect of self worth, satisfaction, performance pressure, etc.

    • Unawoken said:

      Nikhil, that is a good catch. It is indeed not quite powerful that the “overachievers” did not enjoy their efforts, since they were individuals with low self-worth to begin with. Perhaps a better term for them should be “performance anxious” or sonething. I agree that this makes this article not very illuminating.

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