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Abstract

This study examined the relationship between performance outcome, time spent working at a task, and attributions to ability versus effort. It also explored differences in performance time as a function of self-esteem and task-performance expectancies. Subjects worked on a series of concept-attainment items and then were given either success or failure feedback regarding their performance and also information that they had worked either faster or slower than other subjects. They then evaluated their performance and that of a fictitious subject who had also purportedly done the task. Subjects attributed their own and other subjects' successes more to ability if they spent less time at the task and failure outcomes more to ability if they had spent more time at the task. Attributions to success and failure outcomes differed as a function of the interactive effect of self-esteem and task-specific expectancies. Low self-esteem subjects tended to attribute expected outcomes more to ability and unexpected outcomes more to effort, whereas high self-esteem subjects attributed successes more to ability and failure more to effort. Practice time and criteria for satisfaction were also a joint function of self-esteem and task-performance expectancy. The results suggest that task-performance expectancies must be considered when evaluating the role of self-esteem in determining people's responses in performance situations.