Effect of extrinsic incentives on use of test anxiety as an anticipatory attributional defense: Playing it cool when the stakes are high

Jeff Greenberg, Tom Pyszczynski, Chris Paisley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

28 Scopus citations

Abstract

Assessed the effect of extrinsic incentives on the use of test anxiety as a self-handicapping strategy. It was hypothesized that although reports of anxiety may be greater when such symptoms can serve a defensive function, this effect occurs only when extrinsic incentives are low and not under conditions of high extrinsic incentive. 84 male undergraduates anticipated taking a test of intellectual abilities and either were led to believe that test anxiety has no effect on test performance or were given no particular information about the relation between test anxiety and performance. Ss were offered either $5 or $25 for obtaining the highest score on the test. Consistent with predictions, no-information Ss reported greater test anxiety before the test than did those who believed that test anxiety was unrelated to performance, but only when the extrinsic incentive for performance was low. However, these Ss did not report greater cognitive interference or exhibit lower test scores than did Ss in other conditions. It is suggested that the defensive strategy used by these Ss consisted of altering perceptions of anxiety, rather than anxiety itself. Implications of the absence of self-handicapping under high incentive conditions are discussed. (26 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1136-1145
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Volume47
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 1984

Keywords

  • extrinsic incentives, use of test anxiety as self-handicapping strategy, male college students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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