Perfectionism, Cognition, and Affect in Response to Performance Failure vs. Success

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Abstract

The current paper describes the results of an experiment in which 200 students who varied in levels of trait perfectionism performed a laboratory task of varying levels of difficulty. Participants received either negative or positive performance feedback, independent of their actual level of performance. Analyses of pre-task and post-task measures of negative and positive affect showed that individuals with high self-oriented perfectionism experienced a general increase in negative affect after performing the task, and self-oriented perfectionists who received negative performance feedback were especially likely to report decreases in positive affect. Additional analyses showed that self-oriented perfectionists who received negative feedback responded with a cognitive orientation characterized by performance dissatisfaction, cognitive rumination, and irrational task importance. In contrast, there were relatively few significant differences involving other-oriented and socially prescribed perfectionism. Collectively, our findings support the view that self-oriented perfectionism is a vulnerability factor involving negative cognitive and affective reactions following failure experiences that reflect poorly on the self.