Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




James Walsh
Judith Beinstein


Self-concept, Failure, Individual


This paper explores the effects of failure on an individual's self-concept. A model based on symbolic interaction and attribution theories, among others, is elaborated to predict how an individual's self-concept will be affected by failure situations. It is argued that where the individual chooses to attribute causality for failure in the situation will determine the effects of that failure on his self-concept, unless the individual's belief system modifies the attribution process. This attribution is related to one major individual difference: a person's generalized expectancy for control. It is hypothesized that an individual's predisposition to conceive of causality as deriving from either environmental, external forces or personal, internal forces, will mediate the attribution process and hence the effect of the failure on his self-esteem. The hypothesized effects of failure on self-concept are tested by analysis of 122 undergraduate students' responses to a series of ten hypothetical failure situations. Respondents were asked to indicate, for each situation, whether they would attribute their failure to environmental forces or the personal forces of ability or motivation and the degree to which their self-esteem would be reduced by their attribution. Responses to Rotter's (1966) Internal-External Scale and Gough and Heilbrun's (1965) Adjective Checklist were obtained to measure the respondents' internality-externality and self-confidence, respectively. Responses to the hypothetical situations were compared across individuals who varied along these two personality dimensions. Analysis indicated that the respondents' reactions to failure situations seemed to depend on the combined effects of the internal-external and self-confidence dimensions of their personality, that is, whether they were internal or external and had high or low self-confidence. These reactions seemed to mediate the attribution process resulting from failure and the effects of these attributions on self-evaluation.

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