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Relations between impostor feelings and upward and downward identification and contrast among 10- to 12-year-old students

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Abstract

The first objective of this study was to examine the presence of the impostor phenomenon (IP) among 740 students aged 10 to 12 years old. The second objective was twofold: (1) to examine the link between the impostor feelings and the propensity to use social comparison and (2) to examine whether this feeling is related to the processes of identification with versus contrast to others who are either doing better or worse than oneself. Results showed that, although generally of low intensity, the impostor feelings are indeed present in late elementary school children. A positive link between the impostor feelings and the propensity to use social comparison was also observed. It also appeared that, more than for others, children who feel like impostors were likely to differentiate themselves from their more capable peers while identifying themselves with less capable peers. The discussion focuses on the presence of the IP in late elementary children and on how the upward contrast and the downward identification may contribute to its development and maintenance.

Résumé

Le premier objectif de cette étude est d'examiner la présence du sentiment d'imposteur chez des élèves de 10–12 ans. Le second objectif est d'examiner le lien entre ce sentiment et la propension à la comparaison sociale, et le troisième de vérifier si ce même sentiment est relié aux processus d'identification et de différenciation avec une cible faisant mieux que soi ou faisant moins bien que soi. L'examen de 740 élèves a permis de constater que, même s'il est généralement de faible intensité, le sentiment d'imposteur est bel et bien présent à cet âge. On observe un lien positif entre le sentiment d'imposteur et la propension à se comparer, et, plus ce sentiment est présent chez un élève, plus il rapporte se juger différent de ses pairs qui réussissent bien et s'identifier à ceux qui réussissent plus difficilement. La discussion s'intéresse à la façon dont la différenciation ascendante et l'identification descendante peuvent contribuer à l'émergence et au maintien du sentiment d'imposteur chez les élèves.

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Notes

  1. Some people are true impostors, usurping the confidence of others by presenting themselves as more competent or deserving than they really are. To lighten the text, we will use quotation marks around the word “impostor” to denote a person affected by the impostor phenomenon as opposed to a real impostor.

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Acknowledgments

Data collection and preparation of this article were supported by grants to the second author from The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Government of Canada). The authors thank the principals, teachers, students, and parents for their participation.

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Correspondence to Marie-Hélène Chayer.

Additional information

Marie-Hélène Chayer. Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Montréal, C.P. 888, Succursale Centre-Ville, Montréal, QC, Canada H3C 3P8. E-mail: chayer.marie_helene@courrier.uqam.ca; http://www.psycho.uqam.ca

Current themes of research:

Impostor phenomenon. Personal and social mechanisms underlying the impostor phenomenon. Social comparison.

Thérèse Bouffard. Département de Psychologie, Université du Québec à Montréal, C.P. 888, Succursale Centre-Ville, Montréal, QC, Canada H3C 3P8. E-mail: bouffard.therese@uqam.ca; http://www.psycho.uqam.ca

Current themes of research:

Positive and negative self-evaluation biases. Impostor phenomenon. Interdependence of achievement motivation and self-evaluation. Developmental trends of motivation and self-regulation. Family influences in self-evaluation biases. Academic achievement. Cognitive and metacognitive development.

Most relevant publications in the field of Psychology of Education:

Bouffard, T., Roy, M., & Vezeau, C. (2006). Temperamental and attitudinal correlates of socioemotional adjustment among low achiever children. International Journal of Educational Research, 43, 215–235.

Bouffard, T., Vezeau, C. Chouinard, R., & Marcotte, G. (2006). L'illusion d'incompétence et les facteurs associés chez l'élève du primaire. Revue Française de Pédagogie, 155, 9–20.

Bouffard, T., Bouchard, M., Denoncourt, I., Goulet, G. & Couture, N. (2005). Influence of type of goals and self-efficacy on self-regulation on a problem solving task. International Journal of Psychology, 40, 373–384.

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Chayer, MH., Bouffard, T. Relations between impostor feelings and upward and downward identification and contrast among 10- to 12-year-old students. Eur J Psychol Educ 25, 125–140 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10212-009-0004-y

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