Introduction Otto (2006) in their review identified two central

 

Introduction

Perfectionism

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Perfectionism is a
multidimensional personality characteristic as it is associated with both
positive and negative characteristics, processes and outcomes (Ganske, Gnilka,
Ashby, and Rice, 2015; Hongfei and Stoeber, 2012). Stoeber and Otto (2006) in
their review identified two central components of perfectionism that
consistently came up in the literature; perfectionistic strivings and
perfectionistic concerns. Even though these dimensions largely overlap they
show different patterns with adaptive and maladaptive traits. In the
aforementioned review perfectionistic concerns were found to be associated only
with maladaptive characteristics in all studies; whereas perfectionistic
strivings had overall mostly adaptive associations. This finding was even
stronger when the overlap between perfectionistic strivings and concerns was
controlled for (Hill, Huelsman, and Araujo, 2010; Powers, Koestner, Zuroff,
Milyavskaya, and Gorin, 2011; Stoeber and Eismann, 2007). However, this review
focused on general perfectionism literature and did not include any studies on
perfectionist athletes. Gotwals, Stoeber, Dunn and Stoll (2012) conducted a
review on literature about perfectionist athletes and found similar findings
that perfectionistic strivings are mostly adaptive and occasionally neutral and
rarely maladaptive. 

Different theories
have been put forward that try to distinguish between the different subtypes of
perfectionists. In this study one of the most investigated models will be
adopted; the tripartite model (Stoeber and Otto, 2006). In this model the two
aforementioned broad perfectionism dimensions (perfectionistic strivings,
perfectionistic concerns) are combined to create three subtypes: healthy/
adaptive, unhealthy/ maladaptive, non-perfectionists. Adaptive perfectionists aim
high and strive for the best possible performance but are also not extremely
self-critical when it comes to their performance (high perfectionistic
strivings, low perfectionistic concerns). Maladaptive perfectionists also set
high standards for their performance but are overly self-critical regarding
their performance (high perfectionistic strivings, high perfectionistic
concerns). Non-perfectionists are defined as people that do not show high
levels of perfectionistic strivings. Therefore, according to this theory in
order to be defined as a perfectionist it is compulsory for someone to have
high perfectionistic strivings and then the level of perfectionist concerns
determines whether they are adaptive (low concerns) or maladaptive (high
concerns).

Self-enhancement/ self-serving bias

People have a
tendency to view themselves in a positive manner, especially when they find
themselves in ambiguous situations; this is called the self-serving bias
(Heider, 1958).  It has been shown that
people make more self-enhancing judgments when their own self-esteem is being
threatened, such as in situations of failure (Beauregard and Dunning,
1998). 

 

 

Attribution theory

One way of investigating how
people self-enhance or self-diminish arises
from Weiner’s (1985) attribution theory. According to his framework people try
and explain the causes of situations and the attributions they make can be
placed in three causal dimensions; locus of control (internal/external),
stability (change over time/ or not), controllability (can control/not). Internal
factors can be thought of as the person’s talent and competence, whereas
external are factors in the environment such as other people. In line with this
theory, one makes a self-enhancing judgment known as a self-serving attribution
bias when they ascribe positive outcomes to internal/stable/controllable
factors and failure to external/unstable/ uncontrollable factors. In other
words this bias is evident when people accept praise for their successes but do
not accept responsibility for their failures. (Mezulis, Abramson, Hyde, and Hankin, 2004). In situations of failure external,
unstable and uncontrollable attributions are protective of one’s self-esteem
and indicative of a self-serving bias/ of self-enhancement (because these
judgments make them feel good about themselves).  On the other hand, internal, stable, and
controllable attributions of failure have negative associations such as low
self-esteem and are indicative of self-diminishment/self-depreciating (Weiner,
1985).

 

In competitive
sports an athlete will inevitably experience situations of failure and negative
feedback. (ref)  Causal attributions of athletes in situations
of failure (judging why it happened) are important in understanding whether
athletes self enhanced or not.

Athletes
Athletes have been shown to self-enhance by making internal judgments of
success and external of failure, in order to maintain their self-esteem (Biddle
and Hanrahan, 1998).  However, there are
contradictory findings that argue athletes always make internal attributions;
whether it is a situation of success or failure because they feel a need to
accept responsibility for their actions (Mark et al., 1984; Grove et al., 1991;
Grove & Prapavessis, 1995).

Perfectionists In non-athlete perfectionists the attributional pattern is
more complicated; it was found that maladaptive perfectionism is associated
with self-depreciating attributions (Chang & Sanna, 2001; Flett, Hewitt,
Blankstein, & Pickering, 1998) IN stoeber and becker 2008.  Maladaptive perfectionism may be inversely
related to the self-serving bias. Given that self-critical perfectionists are
more prone to depression and anxiety (Sherry et al., 2014), and that those with
depression or anxiety are less likely to utilize a self-serving bias(ref); perhaps this is one explanation why maladaptive
perfectionists are less likely to employ a self-serving bias. Research is in
line with this idea that adaptive perfectionists show a self-serving bias
whereas maladaptive perfectionists do not. Levine, Werner, Capaldi and Milyavskaya
(2017) also looked at non-athlete perfectionists and found that adaptive
perfectionists attributed failure to more external and conversely maladaptive
perfectionists attributed failure to more internal reasons.

Perfectionist
athletes Is
this also the case for perfectionist athletes? Anshel and Mansouri (2005) when
investigating 30 male perfectionist athletes found that perfectionism was
linked with making internal attributions of failure and this relationship was
particularly strong for the “concern about mistakes” dimension of perfectionism
that is linked to maladaptive perfectionism. Therefore, maladaptive
perfectionist athletes were making self-depreciating attributions after
negative feedback. Later, a study by Stoeber and Becker (2008) investigated 74
female perfectionist athletes and found that striving for perfection was
associated with self-serving attributions of failure (and success); whereas
maladaptive perfectionism was associated with self-diminishing attributions. In
this study the researchers argued that self-enhancement in adaptive
perfectionists occurred by making external judgments of failure and that self-depreciating
attributions in maladaptive perfectionists were made by internal judgments of
failure.

 

Research
investigating judgments of causality in situations of failure (and success) in
order to explain how the different categories of perfectionist athletes
self-enhance or self-diminish has focused only on whether judgments of
causality are internal/external (locus of causality) (Anshel and Mansouri,2005;
Stoeber and Becker, 2008). However, other important components of the
attribution framework are stability and controllability (Weiner, 1985) and
these should be taken into account. Athletes may be self-enhancing/self-diminishing
not only by making internal/external judgments of what caused failure, but also
by making judgments about whether the cause was stable/unstable and
controllable/uncontrollable.  The
prediction of the present experiment is that in line with previous research
adaptive perfectionists will self-enhance when thinking about a situation of
failure; but this will be investigated by using all three causal dimensions of
the attribution framework: locus of control, stability, controllability
(Weiner, 1985). Therefore, the first hypothesis of the present experiment is:

Adaptive perfectionist athletes will show a self-enhancing
pattern when thinking about failure by making (a) external, (b) unstable and
(c) uncontrollable attributions about the cause of failure.

Additionally, the
second prediction of this experiment is that line with previous research
maladaptive perfectionists will self-diminish when thinking about a situation
of failure; but this will be investigated by using all three causal dimensions
of the attribution framework: locus of control, stability, controllability
(Weiner, 1985). Therefore, the second hypothesis of the present experiment is:

Maladaptive perfectionist athletes will show a self-depreciating
pattern when thinking about failure by making (a) internal, (b) stable and (c) controllable
attributions about the cause of failure.

This study adds to
the limited research of attribution theory in perfectionist athletes and aims
to provide a more comprehensive picture of the attributional patterns that
different perfectionist athletes show when thinking of situations of failure.

Better than average effect

Furthermore,
another way of investigating how people self-enhance or self-depreciate is by
investigating the better than average effect (BTA). The BTA effect proposes
that most people rate their abilities as better than “average”, however it
is statistically impossible because then it would not be the average (Brown,
1998).  The strength of this effect can
be seen by the fact that even when given identical criteria for judging their
self or others people still see the self in a more favourable manner (Alicke et
al., 2001).  In line with previous
research mentioned suggesting that adaptive perfectionists will self-enhance
and maladaptive will not, it is predicted that adaptive perfectionist athletes
will rate themselves as better than average whereas maladaptive perfectionist
athletes will rate themselves as below average. 
Therefore,
the third hypothesis of the present experiment is:

Adaptive perfectionist athletes will show a self-enhancing
pattern by (a) scoring themselves as above average on the BTA scale and by (b)
scoring other athletes below average on the BTA scale.  

Additionally, the
fourth hypothesis of the present experiment is:

Maladaptive perfectionist athletes will show a
self-depreciating pattern by (a) scoring themselves as below average on the BTA
scale and by (b) scoring other athletes as above average on the BTA scale.  

There has not so
far been an investigation of the BTA effect in perfectionist athletes and the
findings will be an important contribution to the field (because
self-enhancing/ depreciating is associated with many things e.g. self-esteem
that could be investigated in the future). The BTA has been investigated in many
populations eg (ref) but not perf athletes. The scale was chosen because it
captures global and controllable traits (that have shown strong results).