Self-Handicapping, Excuse Making, and Counterfactual Thinking: Consequences for Self-Esteem and Future Motivation

Published on Jan 1, 2008in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
· DOI :10.1037/0022-3514.95.2.274
Sean M. McCrea15
Estimated H-index: 15
(University of Konstanz)
Researchers interested in counterfactual thinking have often found that upward counterfactual thoughts lead to increased motivation to improve in the future, although at the cost of increased negative affect. The present studies suggest that because upward counterfactual thoughts indicate reasons for a poor performance, they can also serve as excuses. In this case, upward counterfactual thoughts should result in more positive self-esteem and reduced future motivation. Five studies demonstrated these effects in the context of self-handicapping. First, upward counterfactual thinking was increased in the presence of a self-handicap. Second, upward counterfactual thoughts indicating the presence of a self-handicap protected self-esteem following failure. Finally, upward counterfactual thoughts that protect self-esteem reduced preparation for a subsequent performance as well as performance itself. These findings suggest that the consequences of upward counterfactuals for affect and motivation are moderated by the goals of the individual as well as the content of the thoughts.
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