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Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2007 Nov;33(11):1503-17. Epub 2007 Sep 10.

Contingencies of self-worth, academic failure, and goal pursuit.

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Department of Psychology, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, NY 14260, USA.


Two studies examine the effects of failure on explicit and implicit self-esteem, affect, and self-presentation goals as a function of people's trait self-esteem and academic contingency of self-worth. Study 1 shows that participants with low self-esteem (LSE) who receive failure feedback experience lower state self-esteem, less positive affect, and less desire to be perceived as competent the more they base self-worth on academics. In contrast, participants with high self-esteem (HSE) who strongly base self-worth on academics show a slight boost in state self-esteem and desire to be perceived as competent following failure. Study 2 shows that following failure, academically contingent LSE participants downplay the importance of appearing competent to others and associate themselves with failure on an implicit level. Taken together, these findings suggest that academically contingent HSE people show resilience following failure, whereas academically contingent LSE people experience negative outcomes and disengage from the pursuit of competence self-presentation goals.

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