پیشگیری از خود ناتوان سازی - تابع محافظ اهداف تسلط
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|38291||2011||11 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||محاسبه نشده|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Learning and Individual Differences, Volume 21, Issue 6, December 2011, Pages 699–709
Abstract Drawing on modern diathesis-stress theories which suggest a multiplicative approach to determine one's personal vulnerability status, we posit that the degree of an individual's vulnerability for using self-handicapping strategies in case of self-threatening events depends on the interaction between different vulnerability and protective factors. In this article, we assume that the pursuit of mastery goals buffers the relations between self-handicapping and two frequently cited determinants (low self-esteem, high performance-avoidance goals). In three studies with German high-school and college students, we found empirical evidence for the assumed moderator effect of mastery goals. In studies 1 and 3, performance-avoidance goals were remarkably lower associated with self-handicapping in the group of students highly endorsing mastery goals compared to students who proved to be less mastery oriented. In studies 2 and 3, moreover, individuals' self-esteem was less related to self-handicapping when students strongly emphasized mastery goals. We discuss several implications of these findings for both educational practice and future research on self-handicapping.
Introduction More than three decades ago, Berglas and Jones, 1978 and Jones and Berglas, 1978) introduced the self-handicapping phenomenon to the psychological literature. They defined it “as any action or choice of performance setting that enhances the opportunity to externalize (or excuse) failure and to internalize … success” (Berglas & Jones, 1978, p. 406). Self-handicappers make use of Kelley's discounting principle (Kelley, 1971). It is used if one fails, as the present handicap discounts attributions to internal-stable factors like, for instance, a lack of intelligence. Instead, the failure is attributed to the handicap. On the other hand, if one surprisingly succeeds, attributions to internal-stable factors will be augmented, as the person obviously has been smart or powerful enough to overwhelm the handicap. There is substantial agreement in the literature that self-handicapping displays negative effects on important educational processes and outcomes like motivation and achievement (e.g., Martin et al., 2001 and Zuckerman et al., 1998). These results point to the necessity to examine how students can be prevented from self-handicapping and how they might be encouraged to solve negative performance experiences and threats to their self-esteem in a less costly way. To date, however, only a few studies have been dedicated to this issue (e.g., McCrea and Hirt, 2011 and Siegel et al., 2005). Building on modern diathesis-stress conceptions emphasizing the interplay between different personal vulnerability and protective factors (Abela and Hankin, 2008 and Scher et al., 2005), the present article focuses on the endorsement of mastery achievement goals (Dweck, 1986 and Elliot, 2005) as a promising prevention factor against self-handicapping. 1.1. Determinants of self-handicapping Self-handicapping is expressed by a diverse range of behaviors like substance abuse (Berglas and Jones, 1978, Schwinger, 2008 and Tucker et al., 1981), effort reduction (Deppe and Harackiewicz, 1996 and Pyszczynski and Greenberg, 1983), setting of unobtainable goals (Greenberg, 1985), or choice of debilitating performance settings (Rhodewalt & Davison, 1986). Regardless of the respective self-handicapping behavior, negative consequences like poor performance or loss of intrinsic motivation have been documented in several studies (Elliot and Church, 2003, Martin et al., 2001, Thomas and Gadbois, 2007, Urdan et al., 1998, Zuckerman and Tsai, 2005 and Zuckerman et al., 1998). Given the wide-ranging implications associated with this phenomenon, it appears to be a critical task for researchers to reveal the circumstances under which self-handicapping is more or less likely to occur. To begin with, self-handicapping represents a strategy to regulate one's self-esteem when someone is faced with a self-threatening situation. The perceived threat, in turn, can be elicited by both situational and personal factors. Indeed, a lot of research has been conducted to identify personal risk-factors of self-handicapping. Elliot and Church (2003), for instance, found the behavioral inhibition system (BIS; Gray, 1990) to be positively associated with self-handicapping. Rhodewalt, Tragakis, and Finnerty (2006) revealed narcissism to be related to self-handicapping behaviors. Moreover, several authors reported self-handicapping being determined by participants' gender (Keller, 2002 and McCrea et al., 2007). The two mostly cited determinants of self-handicapping, however, refer to a person's level of self-esteem as well as to her pursuit of performance-avoidance goals (see Rhodewalt and Vohs, 2005 and Urdan and Midgley, 2001, for reviews). Regarding the first factor, it seems reasonable to assume that a person disposing of low self-esteem may experience self-esteem threats more often compared to a person possessing high self-esteem. Negative events, like a critical teacher feedback, are perceived differently by these two persons, with the first one being more at risk to experience a threat to her self-esteem (Rhodewalt and Vohs, 2005 and Schwinger, 2008). In line with these assumptions, a number of studies revealed significantly negative correlations between self-esteem and self-handicapping (Coudevylle et al., 2008, Pulford et al., 2005, Rhodewalt, 1990, Schwinger and Stiensmeier-Pelster, in press and Zuckerman et al., 1998). Moreover, Zuckerman et al. (1998) pointed out that persons inclined to general low self-esteem may be prone to experience a vicious cycle. They start with reacting to self-esteem threats by self-handicapping. Unfortunately, however, self-handicapping leads to lower performance, which subsequently decreases one's self-esteem and therefore increases the probability to self-handicap again. Taken together, the empirical evidence suggests that low self-esteem individuals can cope significantly worse with self-threatening events – and thus self-handicap more frequently – compared to high self-esteem individuals (see also vanDellen, Campbell, Hoyle, & Bradfield, 2011, for a recent meta-analysis). The second important personal determinant of self-handicapping is a performance-avoidance goal orientation. From the perspective of achievement goal theory, students can be differentiated according to their long-term goals they endorse in school. By definition, mastery goals orient students toward learning and the development of one's competencies, while performance goals orient them toward considering their ability and performance relative to others (Ames, 1992, Dweck, 1986, Hulleman et al., 2010 and Nicholls, 1984). Performance goals can be further subdivided into performance-approach and performance-avoidance goals. Students endorsing performance-approach goals aim to demonstrate their higher abilities in comparison to their classmates, whereas students pursuing performance-avoidance goals strive to not perform worse than others (Elliot and McGregor, 2001, Hulleman et al., 2010 and Middleton and Midgley, 1997).2 Performance-avoidance oriented students describe themselves as less capable and they seek to avoid other people becoming aware of it. When those students anticipate failing in an upcoming test, they will try to provide alternative explanations for their failure in order to prevent others from attributing their bad performance to lacking abilities (Spinath & Stiensmeier-Pelster, 2003). Self-handicapping appears to be perfectly suitable to achieve this goal. Thus, unsurprisingly, a performance-avoidance goal orientation has been shown to be associated with a higher use of self-handicapping strategies (Elliot and Church, 2003, Martin et al., 2001, Midgley and Urdan, 2001, Schwinger and Stiensmeier-Pelster, in press and Urdan, 2004). Previous research on self-handicapping has especially focused on mastery (-approach) and performance-avoidance goals (e.g., Urdan & Midgley, 2001), which is why we suppose these two achievement goals to be of foremost interest to the present research. Nevertheless, since the different achievement goals have been found to be substantially inter-correlated (e.g., Elliot and Murayama, 2008 and Wang et al., 2007), researchers may come to wrong conclusions if they consider the association between certain goals and outcomes without controlling for the effects of other achievement goal dimensions. Stated differently, results obtained for the relation of one particular achievement goal to cognition, affect, or behavior might be confounded by other types of goals. Findings of studies examining antecedents and consequences of multiple goal pursuit further support this line of reasoning (e.g., Barron and Harackiewicz, 2001 and Senko and Harackiewicz, 2005). Therefore, in two of the three studies reported here we controlled for the effects of students' performance-approach goals. 1.2. Mastery goals diminish the effects of self-handicapping determinants A rather simple method to prevent people from using self-handicapping strategies would be to “turn off” all the negative attitudes and self-perceptions that lead to self-esteem threats and subsequently elicit self-esteem maintenance mechanisms. For instance, high self-esteem (Martin et al., 2001), low performance-avoidance goal pursuit (Midgley & Urdan, 2001), low prevention regulatory focus (Leonardelli, Lakin, & Arkin, 2007), low entity views of intelligence (Rhodewalt, 1994), low uncertain personal control (Martin et al., 2001), and low fear of failure (Elliot & Church, 2003) have all been associated with a low amount of self-handicapping. As a consequence, it would be useful to bolster people's self-esteem, to lower their performance-avoidance goals, and so on. Such undertakings, however, are arduous and riddled with difficulties in order to produce the aspired effects. This holds true especially for self-esteem enhancement programs. For example, interventions aimed primarily at enhancing people's worthiness try to make them feel good about themselves regardless of their actual competencies. As research has shown, such programs produce no long-lasting positive results and may even have negative long-term consequences due to the failing balance between worthiness and perceived competencies (Baumeister et al., 1996 and Mruk, 2006). Another aspect which impedes direct self-esteem changes refers to most people's tendency to seek self-confirmatory performance feedback (Swann, 1990). This confirmation tendency becomes even stronger the more important the issue is for one's entire self-esteem (Swann and Pelham, 2002 and Vonk, 2006). Given the difficulties described above, it might make much more sense to search for a variable that helps to reduce self-handicapping even when all the negative risk-factors are still present. Stated differently, a variable is needed that diminishes the negative impact of the mentioned risk-factors on self-handicapping. In the present article, we examine a mastery goal orientation as a promising prevention factor against self-handicapping. We assume that mastery goals buffer the negative impact of the above mentioned attitudes on self-handicapping (Rothbaum, Morling, & Rusk, 2009). However, the absence of mastery goals is not supposed to boost the relationships between self-handicapping and its determinants in a maladaptive way. The assumed buffering effect of mastery goals can be framed in terms of classical diathesis-stress theories stating that the risk to develop psychologically maladaptive attitudes or behaviors (e.g., depression, self-handicapping) depends on the interaction between the degree of one's personal vulnerability and the level of stress experienced (see Rothbaum et al., 2009, for a discussion of the similar etiologies of depression and self-handicapping). That is, people with low self-esteem are vulnerable to self-handicapping, and they choose handicapping behaviors in response to stressful events such as upcoming exams (Rhodewalt & Vohs, 2005). However, modern multiplicative approaches to diathesis-stress suggest that there are probably numerous factors that either increase or diminish the degree of one's personal vulnerability. Several studies in depression research have therefore adopted this multiplicative approach which posits that the interaction between vulnerability and/or protective factors ultimately determines one's vulnerability status (Abela & Hankin, 2008). For instance, a positive attributional style could protect low self-esteem individuals against increases in depressive symptoms following negative events (Conley, Haines, Hilt, & Metalsky, 2001). Besides multiplicative models in diathesis-stress research, there is also a buffering hypothesis in studies on achievement goals. It suggests that an adaptive personal goal or classroom goal structure weakens the undesirable effect of a maladaptive personal goal or classroom goal structure (Lau & Nie, 2008). Indeed, several studies have reported positive buffering effects for both personal mastery goals (Daniels et al., 2008, Midgley and Urdan, 2001 and Wolters, 2004) and mastery classroom goal structures (Ciani et al., 2010 and Schwinger and Stiensmeier-Pelster, 2011). Given these theories and empirical findings, we believe it reasonable to assume that high mastery goals diminish the negative effects of personal vulnerability factors on self-handicapping. 1.3. What are the Buffering Mechanisms of Mastery Goals? As stated above, self-handicapping could be easily reduced by providing people with positive values on factors relevant to self-esteem threat and self-esteem regulation (e.g., high self-esteem, high personal control). However, such interventions are often unsuccessful (see Mruk, 2006, for difficulties of self-enhancement programs). Even if successful, the problem remains that people are still focused on their self-esteem, their performance in comparison to others, and their appearance in front of others (Hulleman et al., 2010). Stated differently, self-esteem is still contingent on performance outcomes. Thus, an effective and long-lasting prevention factor consists in fostering beliefs that the self and performance are malleable (Dweck & Leggett, 1988) and that self-worth is not contingent on one's abilities (Niiya, Crocker, & Bartmess, 2004). A mastery goal orientation meets these criteria due to the following reasons.3 First, self-handicapping is characterized as a response to a self-esteem threat elicited, for example, by the expected negative performance in an exam (Martin et al., 2001). Mastery oriented students are supposed to experience such self-esteem threats less frequently than other students because their attention is primarily directed on the task to be mastered and not on what consequences a potential failure might have to their self-esteem. Stated differently, mastery oriented students do not interpret failure as a feedback concerning their self-esteem. Rather, they see negative task experiences as a possibility for personal growth (Dweck & Leggett, 1988). On the other hand, students exclusively relying on performance-avoidance goals are assumed to judge those moments as situations where they will probably lose but not gain anything. Unlike mastery oriented students, they do not see anything positive in a failure, least of all the chance for personal growth. Second, although mastery oriented students probably also experience failures and setbacks, they tend to judge them more positively. A mastery goal orientation leads students to attribute failure to modifiable and controllable factors like low effort (Ames, 1992 and Dweck and Leggett, 1988). Such an attributional pattern may further prevent mastery oriented students from self-handicapping because self-esteem threats often emerge from achievement attributions to internal, stable, and uncontrollable factors (Covington, 1992 and Martin et al., 2001). The described characteristics of mastery goals seem to be suitable for buffering the negative, self-threatening impact of an individual's low self-esteem and high performance-avoidance goal pursuit. Most notably, mastery goals help people to maintain their self-esteem regardless of any performance outcome which is why maintenance strategies like self-handicapping need to be used less frequently. To further illustrate the moderator hypothesis, we consider two hypothetical students called Lisa and Marie. Both students have low self-esteem and also feel highly committed to performance-avoidance goals. While Lisa is not at all mastery oriented, Marie additionally disposes of a high mastery goal orientation.4 Lisa and Marie often expect to fail in their exams at school resulting in threats to their self-esteem. These negative emotional states need to be regulated. Lisa normally uses self-handicapping for self-esteem regulation because she has nothing positive to expect from a negative grade in an exam. Negative cognitions and emotions about the upcoming exam are dominant, and Lisa neither sees anything good in this situation nor an adaptive possibility to cope with the potential failure. Marie, on the other hand, usually chooses a more adaptive way to regulate her self-esteem before self-threatening exams, namely by “activating” her mastery goal orientation. She instructs herself in thinking about the possibility to learn from her mistakes in order to perform better next time (Wolters, 2003). She also resolves to attribute her performance in the exam to variable and controllable aspects (Dweck & Leggett, 1988). A failure in the exam would not be equal to a final evaluation about her cognitive abilities, as such. Instead, a failure would indicate the necessity to work harder and to invest more effort in learning than before. By “switching on” her mastery goal orientation, Marie copes with her situational self-esteem threat. As a consequence, she regularly does not need to use self-handicapping or any other maladaptive strategy to regulate her self-esteem. Admittedly, to benefit from the pursuit of mastery goals, Marie is required to be able to activate them in the respective learning situations before exams. This step comprises a regulatory effort, as such. However, research on multiple achievement goals has described such a selective goal pattern where individuals are presumed to choose the most adaptive goal orientation for any given situation ( Barron and Harackiewicz, 2001 and Senko and Harackiewicz, 2005). Certainly, Marie won't be capable of switching on her mastery goal orientation every time, especially if the expectation to cope with the exam is exceedingly negative. This said, we do not make any predictions here in regard to how often Marie will be able to successfully activate her mastery goal orientation across several learning situations. Nevertheless, if Marie manages it in at least some learning situations along a certain time period, we conclude that her habitual amount of self-handicapping will decrease. Due to the moderating effect of Marie's mastery goal orientation, there will be weaker associations on the habitual level between self-esteem, performance-avoidance goals, and self-handicapping. 1.4. Aims and hypotheses With the present research, we aim to provide empirical evidence for our assumption that an orientation towards mastery goals moderates (i.e., buffers) the association of students' self-esteem and their performance-avoidance goal orientation with their tendency to use self-handicapping for self-esteem regulation. We expect this moderator effect of a mastery goal orientation to operate independently from any direct effect on self-handicapping. We seek to confirm our hypotheses in three studies conducted with German high-school and college students.