Social Psychology: Self Handicapping Essay

794 words - 3 pages


It’s the night before the big exam, and my body is not in the suitable mood to stare at notes and text in order to learn the answer to any question to be asked the next day. I know that I should, but studying isn’t extremely enjoyable, especially when up against a night out and a slight morning headache. Of course I go out. In the event that the test does not go as well as I hope, my night out will be my excuse for the result.
The next day’s test turns out to be satisfactorily completed (as usual), though I know I could have performed better. My rather eventful night did not become my excuse for an unsatisfactory grade, but rather a pathetic justification for not seeking to achieve my finest. To the benefit of myself, I don’t particularly need to study a great deal, or even at all. I am sure this fact only lends itself to my consistently inadequate study habits.
The social psychological theory demonstrated by my creation of defenses to be drawn out in the event of a failure that I knowingly insufficiently prepared for is self-handicapping. Pettijohn (1998) defines self-handicapping as “a strategy that people use to prepare for failure; people behave in ways that produce obstacles to success so that when they do fail they can place the blame on the obstacle.” According to this theory of self-handicapping, I decided to spend the night out as opposed to studying in preparation for failure. In the event that I did fail, my excuse would have been the obstacle I had produced for myself the night prior.
As explained by Schrof (1993) nearly everyone will make use of a self-handicap when an important self-concept is being challenged. Schrof (1993) also suggests that those most susceptible to become chronic excuse makers are also obsessed with success. This fear of failure is what becomes the drive to create excuses in case of failure. In the study by Kimble, Kimble, & Croy (1998) there exists one chief predictor in the development of self-handicapping tendencies. The study found a linear correlation between the ages of the subjects and the degree of self-handicapping. Young children self-handicap less than older children, who self-handicap less than adults. Self-handicapping also had a direct association with the self-esteem of the subjects; subjects with lower self esteem seemed to self-handicap more in order to protect their self esteem. Results of this study indicate that a self-affirming experience reduces the need to protect self-esteem, and thus reduces the motivation to self-handicap.
According to Pillow (2001) self-handicapping is more prevalent in public, when anxiety is high, and when the task is...

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