• personality;
  • adolescents;
  • Streber;
  • Big Five;
  • labelling;
  • social relations model


The current research investigated a phenomenon that has received little attention so far: the labelling of students who are characterised by a strong academic orientation. We analysed whether personality predicts being labelled a ‘Streber’ (literally a person who strives for success; German origin, similar to the English word ‘nerd’) and labelling others as Strebers. Besides individual characteristics, we examined the impact of the classroom context. In Study 1 (N = 317), eighth-grade students nominated classmates who were considered to be Strebers and provided self-ratings on how often they had labelled others as Strebers. In Study 2 (N = 358), using a round robin design, we had students rate each of their classmates on the extent to which the students perceived their classmates to be Strebers. Results showed that being labelled was associated with introversion and conscientiousness. Labelling others was related to extraversion, low conscientiousness and low agreeableness. Furthermore, the labelling and the expected relation between individual characteristics and labelling were stronger in high-achieving than in low-achieving classes. Results are discussed with respect to personality traits as potential risk factors in peer stigmatisation and the impact of the classroom context. Copyright © 2012 European Association of Personality Psychology