Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 40, Issue 6, pp 878–894 | Cite as

Mediation models of implicit theories and achievement goals predict planning and withdrawal after failure

  • Patricia A. SmileyEmail author
  • Katherine V. Buttitta
  • Samuel Y. Chung
  • Valeska X. Dubon
  • Lillian K. Chang
Original Paper


Dweck posits that implicit theories of intelligence provide a meaning system that organizes goal-based patterns of response in achievement situations. Goals of increasing competence or demonstrating competence provide purposes for engaging in achievement tasks and frameworks for interpreting and responding to outcomes. Despite suggestions that within an implicit theory framework, attributions and emotions should mediate associations between goals and post-failure responses, such models have rarely been explicitly tested. We obtained questionnaire data from college students (N = 261) on implicit theories, goals, and attributions, as well as emotions and behavior after a hypothetical failure. Path analysis showed that learning goal and effort attribution mediated the association between incremental theory and post-failure intention to plan remedial action. Theory-consistent indirect effects that predicted intention to withdraw were also identified. Findings provide support for Dweck’s theory and extend our understanding of the roles of goals, attributions, and emotions in explaining responses to achievement setbacks.


Achievement motivation Implicit theories Goals Attributions Achievement emotions 



We are grateful to Claremont Graduate University student Margaret Burkhart for her assistance with data analysis, and to Pomona College students Anna Blanken, Mina Han, Megan Holman, Sue Hyun Kwon, and Christopher Reeves for project assistance. This research was supported with faculty research grants from Pomona College to the first author.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia A. Smiley
    • 1
    Email author
  • Katherine V. Buttitta
    • 2
  • Samuel Y. Chung
    • 1
  • Valeska X. Dubon
    • 2
  • Lillian K. Chang
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyPomona CollegeClaremontUSA
  2. 2.Division of Behavioral and Organizational SciencesClaremont Graduate UniversityClaremontUSA

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