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Self-esteem and persistence in the face of failure

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Title: Self-esteem and persistence in the face of failure
Author: Di Paula, Adam
Degree Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
Program Psychology
Copyright Date: 1997
Subject Keywords Self-esteem; Persistence; Failure (Psychology)
Abstract: Two studies tested a theory of how trait self-esteem moderates behavioral and cognitive persistence in the face of failure. Three primary hypotheses were examined. First, that high self-esteem (HSE) individuals persist more than low self-esteem (LSE) individuals when their initial attempts to reach a goal fail, but subsequent or repeated failures lead HSE individuals to reduce behavioral persistence and pursue goal alternatives more quickly than LSE individuals. Second, that when no goal alternatives are available, HSE individuals behaviorally persist more than LSE individuals. Third, despite reductions in behavioral persistence, LSE individuals do not "give up" on the failed goal but continue to persist cognitively, in the form of aversive ruminations about the failed goal. In a factorial experiment, persistence was examined as a function of self-esteem, degree of failure, and the availability of goal alternatives. As hypothesized, HSE participants behaviorally persisted more than LSE participants after a single failure, but less after repeated failure. However, selfesteem differences in behavioral persistence did not emerge when goal alternatives were unavailable. Partial support was received for the hypothesis that LSE individuals engage in more ruminative persistence than HSE individuals-LSE participants showed higher levels of ruminative persistence on one of two measures of ruminative persistence. The findings regarding behavioral persistence were conceptually replicated, and the hypothesis regarding ruminative persistence received stronger support, in a longitudinal field study in which HSE and LSE participants initially listed their goals and reported on their behavioral and ruminative persistence regarding these goals 5 months later. HSE participants exhibited better calibration between perceptions of goal failure and behavioral pursuit than LSE participants, indicating that increasing perceptions of goal failure were associated with reductions in behavioral pursuit more for HSE than LSE participants. Although they reduced behavioral pursuit relative to HSE participants, LSE participants continued to persist cognitively, by ruminating about their goals more than HSE participants. Discussion focuses on the need to revise traditional views of HSE individuals that emphasize their tenacious persistence and views of LSE individuals that emphasize their tendency to give up in the face of failure.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/6764
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]

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