A preliminary version of this experiment was reported at the meeting of the Academy of Management, Dallas, August 1983. The author acknowledges the helpful comments of Robert Arkin, Edward E. Jones, and Edwin Locke on an earlier version of this manuscript.
Unattainable Goal Choice as a Self-Handicapping Strategy†
Article first published online: 31 JUL 2006
Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Volume 15, Issue 2, pages 140–152, March 1985
How to Cite
Greenberg, J. (1985), Unattainable Goal Choice as a Self-Handicapping Strategy. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 15: 140–152. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1985.tb02340.x
- Issue published online: 31 JUL 2006
- Article first published online: 31 JUL 2006
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.