The influence of success and failure experiences on agency



Agency is—besides communion—a basic dimension of traits. It can be specifically linked to behavioral outcomes, to status, mastery, self-esteem and to success. The present paper analyzes the situational malleability of agency. Two studies tested whether an individual's agency (but not communion) is situationally influenced by the experience of success versus failure at a task, as well as whether this effect is the same for men and women. Supporting our hypotheses, the induction of success versus failure experiences led to changes in agency that were independent of actual performance, independent of type of task (memorizing vs. face recognition), independent of induction methodology (easy vs. difficult task vs. manipulated performance feedback), and independent of self-esteem, initial level of agency and of the participants' gender. Communion was not influenced by this kind of experience. Implications for both the basic dimension of agency and for theories on gender and gender stereotypes are discussed. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.