Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 147–163 | Cite as

The Double-Edged Sword of Self-Handicapping: Discounting, Augmentation, and the Protection and Enhancement of Self-Esteem

  • David L. Feick
  • Frederick Rhodewalt


A field study was conducted to test the hypothesis that discounted and augmented ability self-attributions mediate the interactive effects of claimed self-handicaps and academic success and failure on self-esteem. College students were assessed for individual differences in self-handicapping and self-esteem at the beginning of the term and then completed a checklist of claimed self-handicaps immediately preceding their first in-class exam. At the following class, graded exams were returned to the students, who then completed measures of mood, self-esteem, and performance attributions. High self-handicappers claimed more excuses prior to the test. Among failing students, claimed handicaps were associated with greater discounting of ability attributions and higher self-esteem. Among successful students, claimed handicaps were associated with augmented ability attributions and enhanced self-esteem. However, we failed to find support for sex differences in claimed self-handicapping. The implications of the present research with regard to the functional utility of self-handicapping behavior are discussed.


Interactive Effect College Student Individual Difference Social Psychology Field Study 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • David L. Feick
    • 1
  • Frederick Rhodewalt
    • 2
  1. 1.University of UtahUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake City

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