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EGO PROTECTION: THE EFFECTS PERFECTIONISM AND GENDER ON ACQUIRED AND CLAIMED SELF-HANDICAPPING AND SELF-ESTEEM.

Men high on Self-Oriented Perfectionism (SOP; Hewitt, Flett, Turnbull-Donovan. & Mikail, 1995) elected to use an acquired self-handicap (listening to inhibiting, rather than facilitating, music) more than women and low SOP men did while performing a visual puzzle task (two Holusions and two hidden object pictures). Post-task attribution questions supported this choice as an adequate self-handicap, suggesting self-handicapping met self-presentation needs. Low SOP women made significantly higher attributions to claimed self-handicaps (current state and distraction by external factors), allowing them to feel better about their intelligence and themselves in general than others did (ns). Findings for self-handicapping and covert self-esteem (Houston & Kelly, 1985), which did not differ in our college sample, suggest that while SOP and Type A behavior may be similar constructs, they are not synonymous.

When a person is uncertain of successfully executing a task done well in the past or one that "should" be completed well (e.g., a student role appropriate task), there is a tendency to verbally or behaviorally self-handicap prior to the task so the person has an excuse for potentially poor performance (Arkin & Baumgardner, 1985). The goal of self-handicapping is the "control of ... self-attributions of competence and control" by one with "an abnormal investment in the question of self-worth" (Berglas & Jones, 1978, pp. 407 & 205) for ego-protection in the face of potential failure (Arkin & Baumgardner; Koiditz & Arkin, 1982; Tice & Baumeister, 1984).

Both men and women self-handicap. Early studies suggested that men self-handicap more than women, perhaps because of the types of handicaps offered to study participants (Sheppard & Arkin, 1989a, 1989b). Indeed, studies found that men tend to use acquired self-handicaps (Arkin & Baumgardner, 1985; Sheppard & Arkin, 1989a), which involve performing a behavior that might actually damage one's performance--procrastination, underpreparing for or withholding effort on a task (Harris & Snyder, 1986), avoiding relevant feedback by choosing to engage in a nondiagnostic task (Rhodewalt & Davison, 1986), choosing very difficult goals or taking on too many tasks (Greenburg, 1983; Strube, 1986), or using debilitating drugs or alcohol (Berglas & Jones, 1978; Harris & Higgins, 1986; Tucker, Vuchinich, & Sobel, 1981; Weidner, 1980). On the other hand, women seem to prefer claimed self-handicaps (Higgins, Snyder, & Berglas, 1990)--saying they are experiencing test anxiety (Smith, Snyder, & Handelsman, 1982), side effects of medication (Gibbons & Gaeddert, 1984), emotional and physical symptoms (Smith, Snyder, & Perkins, 1983), or a bad mood (Baumgardner, Lake, & Arkin, 1985).

Men tend to attribute success to skill (a stable internal attribution), while women tend to make effort (unstable internal) attributions for success (Deaux & Emsmiller, 1974). Therefore, women may be less threatened than men by uncertain success and consequently less motivated to actively pursue an excuse for potential failure, preferring instead a handy, but undetectable (and maybe nonexistent), claimed handicap (e.g., "I have a headache").

Research on Self-handicapping and Perfectionism

Sheppard and Arkin (1989a) investigated the effects of self-handicapping on undergraduate men and women prior to their taking a test they were told would measure academic ability. After participants were led to believe they had done poorly on a pretest, they chose music that supposedly would either inhibit or facilitate their performance on a task described as either a valid or an invalid predictor of academic success. Men who were told the test would be a valid measure chose to listen to what they believed would be inhibiting music in case they performed poorly on the problem-solving task. All women and those men who were told the task was an invalid predictor chose supposedly facilitating music rather than self-handicapping.

Another characteristic besides gender that should increase an individual's tendency to self-handicap in ego-involving situations is perfectionism. Hewitt and Fleet (1991) depicted perfectionism as the tendency to engage in "setting unrealistic standards and trying to attain these standards, selective attention to and overgeneralization of failure, stringent self-evaluations, and all or none thinking where only total success or total failure exist as outcomes" (p. 456). Self-Oriented Perfectionism (SOP), a subscale of the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (Hewitt, Flett, Turnbull-Donovan, & Mikail, 1995), measures one's personal expectations and has been linked to high standards, self-criticism, self-blame, goal attainment, guilt, disappointment, anger, depression, hostility, and paranoia (Flett, Hewitt, & Dyck, 1989).

Perfectionism and Type A behavior pattern (TABP; Friedman & Rosenman, 1974), in which one is "involved in a chronic incessant struggle to achieve more and more in less and less time and if necessary against opposing efforts...or other people" (p. 67), seem to be maintained by similar beliefs. Type A's are known to base their self-worth on overt productivity (Price, 1983) and on controlling their environment (Glass, 1977). Their tendency to attribute success and failure internally (Brunson, 1982; Brunson & Matthews, 1981; Rhodewalt, 1984) is suspected to actually reflect fear of failure, especially for men (Gastorf & Teevan, 1980; Thoresen, Eagleston, Kirmil-Gray, & Bracke, 1985). Additionally, Type A's in ego-threatening situations have been found to cope with anxiety by self-handicapping (e.g., Harris, Snyder, Higgins, & Schrag, 1986; Strube, 1986; Weidner, 1980).

Since Type A college students score higher on SOP (Bognatz & Schick, 1996; Flett, Hewitt, Blankstein, & Dynin, 1994), we expected high SOP men to behave as Type A men did in earlier self-handicapping research. When faced with an ego-threatening task supposedly predictive of academic ability, Type A men chose to use acquired self-handicapping by not practicing or by lack of preparation, whereas women and Type B men did not (Harris & Snyder, 1986). Type A's tend to underreport symptomology during behavioral tasks, but to recall more arousal, distress, and fatigue than Type B's afterwards (Carver, Coleman, & Glass, 1976; Humphries, Carver, & Neumann, 1983; Stern, Harris, & Elverum, 1981; Weidner & Matthews, 1978). Type A college women have been found to make claimed self-handicaps (e.g., anxiety, menstrual pain, headaches, and other somatic complaints) more than men and Type B women when not task-involved (Chomiak & Schick, 1989; Matthews & Carra, 1982; Rappaport, McAnulty, & Brantley, 1988; Woods & Burns, 1984; Woods, Morgan, Day, Jefferson, & Harns, 1984), so we expected less acquired, but more claimed, self-handicapping from Type A women in our study. All participants completed items immediately following the task allowing them to make a variety of attributions for their performance. Since Type A women were given no formal chance to complain prior to or during the task, we expected them to make handy, but undetectable, claimed self-handicaps on these items.

Although Type A's and B's task abilities are similar (e.g., Ward & Eisler, 1987), Type A's estimate of self-competence (ESC; Motowidlo, 1979) is higher (Cochran, Schick, Astor-Stetson, Gilliard, & Zajac, 1989; Schick, 1988). ESC measures generalized expectancy of success--one's overall feeling of competence in anticipation of attaining a successful performance level for a task. In a study of housewives, Houston and Kelly (1987) found that Type A women, while reporting higher stress and fear of failure, also had higher covert self-esteem (CSE), one's private feelings of self-worth. Rather than using the ESC, we chose to test for CSE to see if high SOP women would be like Type A housewives in having higher self-esteem than our supposedly equivalent group--low SOP women--and to examine men's private beliefs of worth.

Based on past research, we hypothesized that, following failure feedback, high SOP men would choose the offered acquired self-handicap, inhibiting music, more than others would. We also speculated that high SOP women would make more claimed self-handicaps (to current state and distraction by external factors) and have higher covert self-esteem than low SOP women.

Method

Participants

Undergraduates in General Psychology (52 men and 86 women, mean age = 19.86) volunteered to complete the Self-Oriented Perfectionism (SOP) subscale of the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (Hewitt et al., 1995) and Covert Self-Esteem (CSE) Scale (Houston & Kelly, 1987). Participants for the experimental part of the study were chosen based on extreme scores on SOP (10 low SOP men, 10 low SOP women, 9 high SOP men, and 8 high SOP women; mean age = 20.72, SD = 3.98).

Procedure

When the participant arrived, he or she was greeted and tested for normal vision (at least 20:30). Previous puzzle-problem experience was ascertained by showing pictures of or asking about experience with several different types of visual puzzles: Holusions, jigsaw puzzles, 3-dimensional figures (Necker cube), embedded figures (Group Embedded Figures Test; Oltman, Raskin, & Witkin, 1971), ambiguous figures (profiles/vase), and hidden object puzzles. The participant was also asked to indicate his/her experience and liking for each of these visual puzzle types on a 5-point Likert scale.

Next, the task was described to the individual as a problem-solving task that was a valid predictor of academic and intellectual success. The participant "solved" a practice Holusion (Magic Eye II, 1994) that was timed. (A Holusion is a 2-dimensional picture composed of random dots that, when viewed slightly out of focus, looks 3-dimensional. Using Holusions in a book allowed the participant to move the figure toward and away from his/her eyes, which makes seeing the figure easier.)After 1 minute, the male experimenter frowned and said "I am sure you will do better on the real task." This was designed to make the individual uncertain about future success.

The participant was told we were studying the effect of listening to music on people's visual task performance and that previous research using other types of tasks had shown that some music helps and some hinders task performance. The participant was given the choice of listening to music that either "facilitated" or "inhibited" task performance. Regardless of type chosen, the same music (Charlie Parker, Curcio I Giganti Del Jazz) was played during each of the subsequent problems. The individual solved four problems, alternating Holusions and hidden object puzzles, counterbalanced in presentation over the four groups. Three minutes were allowed for each Holusion, and 1 and 2 minutes for easy and hard hidden object puzzles. After completing all four problems, the participant filled out a 10-item attribution scale, assessed on a 7-point scale, to ascertain types of attributions made for performance and the importance of the task for the participant. Finally, the participant was fully debriefed.

Results

Several 2 x 2 ANOVAs (Gender x High/Low SOP) were performed for: CSE, the 10 pretest questions (experience with and liking for the five types of visual puzzles), music choice, number of objects seen in each of the two Holusion and two hidden object pictures, and answers on the 10 attribution items. (See Table 1 for means for experience and liking and Table 2 for means for music choice, CSE, and attribution items.)

Table 1 Means and Standard Deviations for Experience With, and Liking For, Visual Puzzles and Performance on Holusion and Hidden Objects Puzzles
                                               LOW SOP

                                         Men            Women
                                        n= 10           n= 10
                                         M/SD            M/SD

Holusions:
  Experience with                     3.20/1.03       3.30/.95
  Liking for                          2.90/,99        3.50/1.08
Hidden Objects Puzzles:
  Experience with                     3.60/.84        3.90/.88
  Liking for                          3.50/.85        3.60/.84
Embedded Figures Puzzles:
  Experience with                     3.00/1.25       2.80/.63
  Liking for                          3.40/.84        3.00/.67
Ambiguous Figures (Necker cube;
    Vase/Face
  Experience with                     3.40/.84        3.40/.84
  Liking for                          3.90/.74        3.50/.53
Jigsaw Puzzles:
  Experience with                     3.70/.82        4.10/1.20
  Liking for                          3.50/.85        3.60/1.17

PERFORMANCE
  Holusion 1 (3 minutes)              2.90/3.38       2.00/3.32
  Holusion 2 (3 minutes)              1.90/4.53       1.90/3.35
  Easy Hidden Objects Puzzle
  (1 minute)                          8.00/3.06       7.60/2.88
  Hard Hidden Objects Puzzle
  (2 minutes)                         13.70/4.47      12.50/6.00

                                              HIGH SOP

                                         Men            Women
                                        n = 9           n = 8
                                         M/SD            M/SD

Holusions:
  Experience with                     2.67/.71        2.62/1.30
  Liking for                          2.89/.93        2.88/1.36
Hidden Objects Puzzles:
  Experience with                     3.67/1.00       3.75/.71
  Liking for                          3.78/.83        3.62/.52
Embedded Figures Puzzles:
  Experience with                     3.00/.87        3.25/1.16
  Liking for                          3.00/.50        3.12/.99
Ambiguous Figures (Necker cube;
    Vase/Face
  Experience with                     3.00/1.00       2.88/.99
  Liking for                          3.67/.71        3.25/.71
Jigsaw Puzzles:
  Experience with                     3.89/1.05       3.62/1.06
  Liking for                          4.00/.71        3.62/1.06

PERFORMANCE
  Holusion 1 (3 minutes)              .78/2.33        3.12/3.40
  Holusion 2 (3 minutes)              1.33/4.00       3.12/5.84
  Easy Hidden Objects Puzzle
  (1 minute)                          6.22/2.54       7.38/.52
  Hard Hidden Objects Puzzle
  (2 minutes)                         12.00/5.70      13.00/3.25


Note: Experience with and liking for different types of visual puzzles were measured on a 5-point scale. Higher scores indicated more experience and liking and for discovery of more objects in the four puzzles.

Table 2 Means and Standard Deviations for Gender X Self-Oriented Perfectionism (SOP) for Attribution, Music Choice, and Covert Self-Esteem
                                                     LOW SOP

                                                  Men       Women
                                                 n = 10     n = 10
                                                  M/SD       M/SD

ATTRIBUTION QUESTIONS:
1. How do you feel you did on this task?          3.30       3.20
                                                  1.25       1.32

2. How well do you think you would do on          3.90       4.00
  similar task requiring visual skills?           1.20       1.15

3. What percentage of other college students      3.90       4.40
  do you believe would have performed              .88        .70
  better than you did on this task?(a)

4. How important was it to you to do well         4.10       4.20
  on this task?                                   1.73       1.03

5. How did your performance make you feel         3.20       4.00
  about you intelligence?                         1.14        .47

6. How did your performance on this task          3.80       4.40
  make you feel about yourself in general?         .92        .70

7. To what extent was your performance on         2.60       4.10
  this task due to factors outside yourself       1.43       1.45
  (e.g., too much noise in the hallway, the
  way it was presented to you, the
  experimenter's presence, luck, etc.)?

8. To what extent was your performance on         2.20       4.20
  this task due to your current physical or       1.40       1.23
  emotional state (e.g., anxiety, happiness
  fatigue, excitement, etc.)?(c)

9. To what extent was your performance due        4.90       5.00
  to your ability to do visual tasks?(d)          1.45        .67

10. How well did you like the music that          4.20       3.70
  was played during the task?                     1.75       1.83

Music chosen(e)                                   2.00       2.00
                                                   .00        .00

Covert Self-Esteem                               22.89      21.60
                                                  7.83       7.88

                                                    HIGH SOP

                                                  Men       Women
                                                 n = 9      n = 8
                                                  M/SD       M/SD

ATTRIBUTION QUESTIONS:
1. How do you feel you did on this task?          2.89       3.00
                                                  1.76       1.51

2. How well do you think you would do on          3.11       4.00
  similar task requiring visual skills?           1.05       1.20

3. What percentage of other college students      4.56       5.00
  do you believe would have performed              .73        .76
  better than you did on this task?(a)

4. How important was it to you to do well         4.11       3.75
  on this task?                                   1.17        .71

5. How did your performance make you feel         3.44       3.62
  about you intelligence?                          .73       1.30

6. How did your performance on this task          4.00       3.75
  make you feel about yourself in general?         .50       1.39

7. To what extent was your performance on         3.00       2.00
  this task due to factors outside yourself       1.41        .93
  (e.g., too much noise in the hallway, the
  way it was presented to you, the
  experimenter's presence, luck, etc.)?

8. To what extent was your performance on         3.22       3.38
  this task due to your current physical or        .67       1.77
  emotional state (e.g., anxiety, happiness
  fatigue, excitement, etc.)?(c)

9. To what extent was your performance due        3.56       4.12
  to your ability to do visual tasks?(d)          2.07       1.55

10. How well did you like the music that          3.89       4.25
  was played during the task?                     1.69       1.67

Music chosen(e)                                   1.67       1.88
                                                   .50        .35

Covert Self-Esteem                               24.22      21.50
                                                  7.58       9.07


Note: Attribution questions and Covert Self-Esteem (Houston & Kelly, 1984) means based on 7-point Likert scale. Higher scores indicate more agreement. Music chosen: 1=inhibiting music; 2=faciliting music (same music played regardless of choice).

(a) High SOP>Low SOP.

(b) Low SOP women>High SOP woman & Low SOP men.

(c) Women>men; Low SOP women>Low SOP men

(d) Low SOP>High SOP.

(e) High SOP men> Low SOP men & women

Analyses of pretest experience and liking for different types of visual puzzles, actual performance on the four experimental puzzles (two Holusions and two hidden objects tests), and CSE showed no differences. However, high SOP (M = 1.76, SD = .44; 1 = inhibiting music) were more likely to have chosen inhibiting music than were low SOP (M = 2.00, SD = .00), F(1, 33) = 5.53, p [is less than] .05. (All choosing inhibiting music were 20 or younger). The four group means were then compared to test the prediction that high SOP males would be the major self-handicappers. Indeed, high SOP men (M = 1.67, SD = .50) had significantly higher choice of inhibiting music than low SOP men and women, none of whom chose inhibiting music (Ms = 2.00, SDs = .00), while high SOP women had a nonsignificantly intermediate mean (M = 1.88, SD = .35).

Several attribution question differences occurred. Analysis for Question 3 ("What percentage of other college students do you believe would have performed better than you did on this task?") showed high SOP thought a higher percentage would perform better (Ms = 4.76 v. 4.15, SDs = .75, .81; 7 = 100%), F(1, 33) = 6.11, p [is less than] .05.

Analysis of the interaction for Question 7 ("To what extent was your performance ... due to factors outside yourself [e.g., too much noise in the hallway, the way it was presented to you, the experimenter's presence, luck, etc.]?") showed that low SOP women (M = 4.10, SD = 1.45) made this external attribution to "distraction" more than low SOP men (M = 2.60, SD = 1.43) and high SOP women (M = 2.00, SD = .93), F(1, 33) = 7.98, p [is less than] .01, with high SOP men (M = 3.00, SD = 1.41) scoring intermediately. We had expected high SOP women to use this self-handicap since SOP and TABP are theoretically similar.

Analysis of Question 8 ("To what extent was your performance ... due to your current physical or emotional state [e.g., anxiety, happiness, fatigue, excitement, etc.]?") also contradicted our expectation that high SOP women would use this claimed self-handicap the most. In agreement with Baumgardner et al. (1985), women (M = 3.83, SD = 1.50) did agreed their state (an unstable internal attribution) had affected performance more than men did(M = 2.68, SD = 1.20), F(1,33) = 6.19, p [is less than] .05. However, analysis of the interaction showed it was low SOP women (M = 4.20, SD = 1.23) who outscored low SOP men (M = 2.20, SD = 1.40), F(1, 33) = 5.56, p [is less than] .05, with high SOP men and women (Ms = 3.22, 3.38, SDs = .67, 1.77, respectively) nonsignificantly intermediate.

On Question 9 ("To what extent was your performance due to your ability to do visual skill tasks like the ones you just did?") low SOP (M = 4.95, SD = 1.10) made this internal stable attribution more than high SOP did (M = 3.82, SD = 1.81), F(1, 33) = 5.04, p [is less than] .05, again with low SOP women (M = 5.00, SD = .67) having the highest mean (ns). Since Type A's attribute both success and failure to internal factors (Brunson, 1982; Brunson & Matthews, 1981; Rhodewalt, 1984), high SOP should have scored higher if SOP and TABP are equivalent constructs.

Discussion

Sheppard and Arkin (1989a) suggested that self-handicapping occurs when perfectionistic men fear they will not perform well on what they believe is a valid predictor of academic success. Indeed, we found that, after being given failure feedback about a similar task, high SOP men were more likely to choose to hear inhibiting music (an acquired self-handicap) while performing a task purportedly predictive of academic and intellectual success. Apparently choosing the inhibiting music was seen as a sufficient handicap by high SOP men since they mildly disliked the music (M = 3.89 on Question 10, "How well did you like the music ...?"; 4 = neutral) and denied that it affected their performance (M = 3.00 on Question 7, "To what extent was your performance ... due to factors outside yourself?"). Although high SOP men scored lower on thinking they had done well on the task (Ms = 2.89 vs. 3.30 to 3.00 on Question 1, ns), they seemed not to need to make face-saving attributions to current physical or emotional state (M = 3.22), factors outside themselves (M = 3.00), or ability to perform visual skill tasks (M = 3.56), preferring instead to depend on the acquired self-handicap, inhibiting music, to explain their behavior and protect their egos. Since participants were given no objective feedback about actual performance and the attribution scale was completed immediately after completing the visual tasks, means on the attribution questions were especially revealing about how stringently these high SOP men subjectively judged their poor performance.

We expected that high SOP women would choose claimed self-handicaps (mood and distraction) available on the post-task questionnaire since earlier studies showed Type A women reported more symptoms following, or when not involved at all with, an ego-threatening task (Chomiak & Schick, 1989; Matthews & Carra, 1982; Rappaport et al., 1988; Woods & Burns, 1984; Woods et al., 1984). However, they were significantly lower than low SOP women, who scored highest. High SOP women did not unanimously choose facilitating music (Ms = 1.88 vs. 1.67 for high SOP men and 2.00 for low SOP men and women), so future studies should include more participants and investigate whether acquiring a self-handicap negates the need to add a claimed one for women as it appears to for men.

A more interesting group were low SOP women, all of whom chose to hear facilitating music and did not differ from high SOP women on CSE (Ms = 21.60, 21.50, respectively). In partial agreement with Baumgardner et al. (1985), who found women used "a bad mood" as a claimed self-handicap, low SOP women were significantly more likely than low SOP men to make this internal unstable attribution (Ms = 4.20 vs. 2.20 to 3.38 on Question 8, "To what extent was your performance ... due to your current physical or emotional state?"). However, Question 7, "To what extent was your performance ... due to factors outside yourself?" showed that another claimed self-handicap (distraction) was also preferred more by low SOP women (M = 4.10) than by high SOP women (M = 2.00) or low SOP men (M = 2.60), with high SOP men (M = 3.00) intermediate. Two other items suggested that low SOP women were also more likely than others to make an internal stable attribution for their performance (Ms = 5.00 vs. 3.56 to 4.90, on Question 9 "To what extent was your performance due to your ability to do visual skill tasks?", low SOP [is greater than] high SOP; and Ms = 4.00 vs. 3.20 to 3.63, on Question 5 "How did your performance make you feel about your intelligence?"). These women's desire to succeed at the task (Ms = 4.20 vs. 3.75 to 4.11, Question 4 "How important was it to you to do well...?") may explain why they were more likely than others to make all types of attributions for their subjectively-judged poor performance (M = 3.20 on Question 1, "How do you feel you did on this task?"; M = 4.40 on Question 3, "What percentage of other college students ... would have performed better than you ...?", 7 = 100%). Since all low SOP women chose "facilitating" music (which they liked relatively less, Ms = 3.70 vs. 3.89 to 4.25), they might have felt more pressure to excuse their "poor" performance. In fact, their claimed self-handicaps seemed effective since, relative to others' feelings, their performance made them feel alright about their intelligence (Ms = 4.00 vs. 3.20 to 3.62 on Question 5) and themselves in general (Ms = 4.40 vs. 3.75 to 4.00 on Question 6).

We had expected high SOP women to have higher covert self-esteem than low SOP women based on findings for Type A and B housewives (Houston & Kelly, 1987), but this was not the case. High and low SOP women (Ms = 21.50, 21.60, respectively) scored nonsignificantly lower than high and low SOP men (M = 24.22, 22.89, respectively). Because the CSE scale was measured in the questionnaire phase of the study, performance on the visual task weeks later would have had no effect on this private self-worth score. Instead, high CSE may reflect that our participants felt they should do well on the task and were appropriately ego-involved. If so, any of them were at risk for self-handicapping their performance in some manner since all were primed with "failure feedback" and no group expressed satisfaction with their performance (Ms = 2.89 to 3.30 on Question 1; did extremely well = 7).

Conclusion and Implications

We expected that being high SOP would lead participants to react to a problem-solving situation as Type A's had in earlier studies. While the finding that high SOP men chose an acquired self-handicap (inhibiting music) agreed with Type A research (e.g., Harris & Snyder, 1986), other findings did not. Type A's tend to make internal attributions for both success and failure (Brunson, 1982; Brunson & Matthews, 1981; Rhodewalt, 1984), but low SOP, especially women, scored higher (ns) on this attribution in our study. Again, it was low SOP women who claimed distraction by external factors and mood as attributions more than high SOP women did, unlike Type A women's higher self-handicapping in earlier studies that did not use a task (e.g., Rappaport et al., 1988; Woods & Burns, 1984).

This study supported Sheppard and Arkin's (1989a) suggestion that a task perceived as important, valid, and relevant will create an environment in which ego-involved individuals will choose to self-handicap. Our results suggest that once a self-handicap (inhibiting music) is "acquired," further need to excuse one's behavior when answering post-task attribution questions becomes unnecessary for high SOP men. Since prior experience with, liking for, and actual performance on visual tasks did not differ for any group, several types of self-handicapping appeared useful as impression management techniques, especially if performance was subjectively judged as poor. Since high SOP men knew the experimenter would be observing their performance, their choice of inhibiting music illustrates how important having a concurrent excuse was for retaining their public image (Kolditz & Arkin, 1982; Tice & Baumeister, 1984).

Because perfectionism fosters a "tendency to engage in all or none thinking where only total success or total failure exist as outcomes" (Hewitt & Fleet, 1991, p. 456), a high SOP man is repeatedly at risk for ego damage. In our study, being both male and high SOP led many to choose an acquired self-handicap, one that would have made it harder to perform well if it had actually been inhibiting. Sadly, repeatedly making such choices may become a self-fulfilling prophesy, in which the individual will be forced to create such a self-handicap to protect a fragile ego from the "failure" feedback continuously perceived as coming either from others or from oneself (e.g., Brunson, 1982).

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TODD C. DOEBLER
25A River Ridge Road
New London, CT 06320

CONNIE SCHICK
BRETT L. BECK
EILEEN ASTOR-STETSON
Bloomburg University
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Author:DOEBLER, TODD C.; SCHICK, CONNIE; BECK, BRETT L.; ASTOR-STETSON, EILEEN
Publication:College Student Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2000
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