Perfectionism, Cognition, and Affect in Response to Performance Failure vs. Success

Sapir Academic College
Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy 01/2004; 22(4):297-324. DOI: 10.1023/B:JORE.0000047313.35872.5c


The current paper describes the results of an experiment in which 200 students who varied in levels of trait perfectionism performed a laboratory task of varying levels of difficulty. Participants received either negative or positive performance feedback, independent of their actual level of performance. Analyses of pre-task and post-task measures of negative and positive affect showed that individuals with high self-oriented perfectionism experienced a general increase in negative affect after performing the task, and self-oriented perfectionists who received negative performance feedback were especially likely to report decreases in positive affect. Additional analyses showed that self-oriented perfectionists who received negative feedback responded with a cognitive orientation characterized by performance dissatisfaction, cognitive rumination, and irrational task importance. In contrast, there were relatively few significant differences involving other-oriented and socially prescribed perfectionism. Collectively, our findings support the view that self-oriented perfectionism is a vulnerability factor involving negative cognitive and affective reactions following failure experiences that reflect poorly on the self.

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    • "Both studies confronted participants with a cognitive task followed by negative (''Sorry, your performance is below average'') or positive (''Well done, your performance is above average'') bogus feedback and examined participants' affective reactions. In the first study (Besser et al., 2004), perfectionism showed no interactions with feedback. Self-oriented perfectionism predicted increased anxiety, dysphoria, and hostility regardless of the feedback (positive or negative) participants received. "
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    ABSTRACT: Perfectionists have shown increased negative affect after failure compared to nonperfectionists. However, little is known about how perfectionists react to repeated failure. This study investigated the effects of two forms of perfectionism—self-oriented perfectionism and socially prescribed perfectionism—on 100 university students’ reactions to repeated failure (versus repeated success) examining three negative emotions: anxiety, depression, and anger. Results showed that socially prescribed perfectionism predicted increased anxiety, depression, and anger after initial failure and further increased anger after repeated failure. In contrast, self-oriented perfectionism predicted increased anxiety, but only after repeated failure. The findings suggest that both self-oriented and socially prescribed perfectionism are vulnerability factors predisposing individuals to react with increased negative affect after repeated failure.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · Journal of Individual Differences
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    • "Frost and his colleagues have demonstrated that perfectionists react to threats of evaluation and performance errors by becoming overly focused on producing perfect performance and experience increases in negative affect [2] [3] [4]. As Besser, Flett, and Hewitt [5] note, if a cognitive preoccupation with errors persists, this maladaptive focus may serve to create a persistent dysphoria and, indeed, perfectionism has been shown consistently to be positively correlated with depression [6] [7]. Depression has a lifetime prevalence rate of 50% in individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) and is associated with an increased rate of negative outcomes [8] [9] [10] [11]. "
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    ABSTRACT: The relationship between depression and physical disability in multiple sclerosis (MS) is unclear. This investigation examines the interaction between disability and perfectionism in predicting depression in MS. Participants (n=51) completed the Frost Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (FMPS), the Chicago Multiscale Depression Inventory (CMDI), and the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS). Regression revealed that the FMPS×EDSS interaction predicted depression above the variance predicted by each variable alone. Perfectionism predicted depression at high levels of disability. Our results suggest a means of reconciling inconsistent findings regarding physical disability and depression in MS and offer a potential target for psychotherapy.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2013 · Journal of psychosomatic research
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    • "They found that following the receipt of negative performance feedback, perfectionism was significantly associated with elevated levels of depressed mood but only under conditions of high ego involvement (i.e., when a good performance was expected). Besser et al. (2004) used an experimental manipulation of success and failure to examine how perfectionists would respond in performance situations, and found that individuals with high self-oriented perfectionism experienced significantly increased levels of negative affectivity and decreased positive affectivity, regardless of their actual performance, task difficulty, and the type of feedback they received. A similar study conducted by Stoeber et al. (2008) found that maladaptive facets of perfectionism (i.e., self-criticism) was negatively correlated with confidence levels and self-efficacy following failure feedback, while adaptive facets of perfectionism (i.e., perfectionistic striving ) was associated with reaching for higher goals following success feedback and increases in aspiration levels. "
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    ABSTRACT: The present study investigated the role of standard setting by examining the differences in cognitive, affective, and behavioural responses to completing a task for adaptive and maladaptive perfectionists, and the impact of manipulating the expected standards of a task on the evaluation of performance standards. Groups of adaptive, maladaptive, and non-perfectionist participants completed a 15-min anagram task. Levels of positive and negative mood, task anxiety, self-efficacy, and threat appraisals were assessed. Results showed that conditions which involved a high expected standard of performance (i.e., high evaluative threat) were detrimental for maladaptive perfectionists as demonstrated in their higher levels of emotional distress, greater endorsement in dysfunctional thinking, and lower levels of persistence on insolvable anagrams, while adaptive perfectionists and non-perfectionists showed no significant differences in patterns of responding, irrespective of the expected standard. However, adaptive perfectionists were significantly more persistent on insolvable anagrams when under conditions of high evaluative threat. These findings provide support to existing theories of perfectionism and are discussed in terms of the way that the setting and attaining of standards for a task may play across adaptive and maladaptive dimensions of perfectionism. Both clinical implications of the present findings and directions for future research are also explored.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2013 · Cognitive Therapy and Research
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