Attitudes towards the high achiever: The fall of the tall poppy

Authors

  • N. T. Feather

    Corresponding author
    1. The Flinders University of South Australia
      School of Social Sciences, The finders University of South Australia, Bedford Park, South Australia, 5042, Australia
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School of Social Sciences, The finders University of South Australia, Bedford Park, South Australia, 5042, Australia

Abstract

Three studies are reported that concerna attitudes towards a person in a high position (the tall poppy) and towards, the tall poppy's fall. The studies were developed in relation to theoretical analyses concerned with value systems, envy, social comparison, and other psychological processes. In Study 1,531 students in South Australian high schools responded to scenarios in which either a high achiever or an average achiever experienced failure. Results showed that subjects reported feeling more pleased about a high achiever's fall than about an average achiever's fall, more pleased when a high achiever fell to the average position on the performance scale rather than to the bottom, and more pleased and friendly towards a high achiever who fell to the average position than towards an average achiever who fell to the bottom. In Study 2, 361 university students responded to scenarios in which a high achiever or an average achiever cheated at an examination. Results showed that the students were more punitive towards the high achiever who transgressed than towards the average achiever and more pleased about the high achiever's fall. In Study 3, 205 adult subjects completed a Tall Poppy Scale, an extended version of the Rokeach Value Survey, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, and a measure of political preference. Results for a global measure of tall poppy attitudes indicated that negative attitudes were more likely to occur among subjects who were low in global self-esteem, who assigned less importance to values concerned with achievement and social power, and who were more to the left in their political preference.

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