The self-regulatory benefits of handicaps: Do handicapping situations encourage conservation of resources when success is uncertain?
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Self-handicapping has been conceptualized as an identity-based strategy motivated by impression management and, more recently, as an avoidance coping strategy. However, additional evidence suggests that self-handicapping can provide a short-term performance boost (with detriments accruing over the long-term). I use a resource conservation perspective to suggest that this boost in performance may be attributed to an individual's motivation to conserve resources, particularly when there is reason to believe that resources spent now may be better used later. The current study tests if handicapping situations (similar to ones created following the choice to self-handicap) encourage an individual to conserve their resources (e.g., reducing effort), allowing them to spend those resources on later tasks. It was hypothesized that individuals in a handicapping situation would show greater resource conservation (evidenced by decreased effort) as well as improved performance on a follow-up resource-dependent task, compared to those not in a handicapping situation. Additionally, I hypothesize that individuals in a handicapping situation will show greater conservation and greater subsequent performance on a resource-dependent task when there is anticipation for that follow-up task. Effort was also hypothesized to mediate the relationship between group assignment and subsequent performance differences. Finally, it was hypothesized that these relationships would be moderated by neuroticism, conscientiousness, and self-handicapping tendencies (traditional moderators of SH). Prior to an in-lab study, participants (N = 162 undergraduates) completed on-line measures of self-handicapping (SHS), neuroticism, and conscientiousness. Participants were then brought to the lab individually for a study supposedly testing the effects of sound on performance. They were randomly assigned to one of three groups differing in the information given regarding: (1) the level of distraction a stimulus would produce and (2) whether a follow-up task was anticipated after the noise-based task (i.e., Distraction-Anticipation, Distraction-No Anticipation, No Effect-Anticipation). All participants were first given a series of geometric tracing designs allegedly assessing their spatial reasoning ability (series contained 4 solvable designs and 2 impossible designs) and were provided with noncontingent success feedback. Then, participants were asked to complete a new series of tracing designs (eight solvable, one impossible) while a tone was playing. Participants in the distraction conditions (i.e, Distraction-Anticipation and Distraction-No Anticipation) were led to believe that the tone had the ability to significantly impair performance, while participants in the No Effect condition believed the tone had no impact on performance. Following this task, all participants were given a series of logic questions that served as an assessment of regulatory depletion. Results supported the two primary hypotheses. When participants believed that the tone was distracting, and when they anticipated a third task, they were more accurate on the part three logic task (F(2,159) = 7.69, p<.01) compared to both those in the No Effect-Anticipation and the Distraction-No Anticipation conditions. The relationship between group assignment and part three logic performance was mediated by effort during part two (quitting r2 = .14; F(2, 105) = 8.43, p<.001; indirect effect b = -.05, SE = .03, 95% CI [-.12, -.01]). No theoretically meaningful moderators were found. The findings provide initial evidence for resource conservation as a new and unique motivation for self-handicapping. Implications for future research are discussed.
- Doctoral Dissertations