Berglas, S., & Jones, E. E. (1978). Drug choice as a self-handicapping strategy in response to noncontingent success. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(4), 405-417.

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Berglas, S., & Jones, E.E. (1978). Drug choice as a self-handicapping strategy in response to noncontingent success. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 36(4), 405-417.

The research presented in this article introduces and systematically tests the predictions of self-handicapping. Berglas and Jones find that in an experimental situation, males who receive noncontingent-success prefer to take a performance-inhibiting drug (rather than performance-enhancing) in order to protect their fragile but positive conceptions of their own competence. By doing so, participants may be externalizing their potential failure on a successive test. Although this result only holds true for males, the authors suggest that this is a possible explanation for behavior in which people who have previously achieved noncontingent success might purposefully damage their own chances at success on a subsequent task.

This article can be considered a classic because it introduces the now robust findings of the “self-handicapping” strategy. The authors present important work which furthers our understanding of how one’s self-image, performance, and outside feedback influence our behavior, particularly substance use and abuse.

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