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Selection of an extremely difficult performance goal is conceptualized as a self-handicapping strategy–an attempt to externalize outcomes threatening one's self-image. In a laboratory study, male college students were led to believe they had succeeded at a task that was either relevant or irrelevant to their self-images. In conjunction with this, subjects were led to believe that the success they had experienced was either contingent upon or not contingent upon their effort. Consistent with a self-handicapping strategy, extremely difficult performance goals were selected on a subsequent task when success at a previous task was not contingent upon workers' e]ffort, but only in the personally relevant condition-i.e., when task performance had attributional implications for workers' s]elf-images. Personally irrelevant tasks led to a realistic downward revision of performance aspirations in response to noncontingent success.