Socially Positive Behaviors as Self-Handicapping
Self-handicapping is a strategic measure taken to protect an individual's insecure positive reputation when future success is uncertain. Present literature operationalizes self-handicapping narrowly, focusing on socially negative behaviors such as drinking and procrastination. The current research sought to broaden the conceptualization of self-handicapping by considering socially positive behaviors. Eighty-nine female participants were given an impossible task allegedly targeting spatial reasoning ability and randomly assigned to groups based on feedback received (non-contingent success feedback vs. no feedback). Participants were then informed that they would be given time to practice and then retested. During their practice period, participants were given an opportunity to help a confederate. While few helped, participants who received NCSF spent significantly more time socializing than those who received no feedback. A second study evaluated the effectiveness of the previous manipulation. Fifty-eight females followed the same procedure as in study one and instead of practicing, they were asked to rate their performance during phase one, as well as their confidence regarding the upcoming task. Participants who received NCS (vs. no) feedback rated their performance on the target task significantly higher, but without a correspondingly high degree of confidence about replicating their performance. These findings suggest the study one manipulation was effective in creating an insecure positive reputation. The findings in these two studies suggest that behavioral self-handicapping among females may be more prevalent than previously thought, and that the self-handicapping construct may indeed be in need of broader conceptualization. Suggestions for future research are noted in the General Discussion.