The self-attribution of emotion as a function of success and failure1


  • 1

    This research was supported, in part, by a grant (NEG-00-3-0139) from the National Institute of Education and by a grant (MH-22299) from the National Institute of Mental Health.


When an act is interpreted as emotional, the responding individual generally is considered less responsible than if the act were interpreted as deliberate. This leads to the hypothesis that the self-attribution of emotion will more likely occur when behavior has undesirable rather than desirable consequences. Three experiments were conducted to explore this hypothesis. In these experiments, the self-attribution of emotion was assessed indirectly by having the subjects judge potentially arousing stimuli (e.g., nudes and corpses) after these stimuli had been associated with either failure or success on a problem-solving task. As predicted, the nudes were judged more attractive and the corpses more disturbing when they were associated with failure. This tendency was most apparent among subjects who perceived the task to be a valid indication of intellectual ability.