Attributional Modesty in Women


  • The authors wish to thank Judith Langlois, Cookie Stephan, and Sandra Newsome for their comments on an earlier version of this article. Request for reprints should be sent to Walter C. Stephan, Department of Psychology, Box 3452, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico Zip Code 88003.


Three experiments were conducted to test a two-factor model of the determinants of attributional modesty in women. Women tended to make modest attributions for success when they were concerned about how others would evaluate them and when they were concerned about their own self-image. Specifically, the knowledge that one's attributions would be public and the anticipation of future performance on similar tasks led to modesty. Self-derogatory attributions for failure occurred when the subjects thought their attributions would be public.