Performance Impairment After Failure. Mechanism and Sex Differences


In two experiments, I replicated and extended previous research on performance impairment after failure. Children first completed 10 solvable or unsolvable matching-figures tasks. They then tried to solve 15 anagrams described as highly or moderately difficult. In the first study, the children did not have the option to give up on an anagram before the allotted time had elapsed. No performance impairment in response to failure was found. In the second study, children were able to give up and choose to move on to the next anagram. Boys performed significantly worse after failure when anagrams were described as moderately difficult. They performed as well as children who completed solvable matching figures, however, when the second task was described as very difficult. These data for the boys were consistent with the ego-threat hypothesis. Girls followed the pattern associated with learned helplessness, performing less well when the second task was described as very difficult. The presence or absence of an observer had no effect. © 1986 American Psychological Association.

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Journal of Educational Psychology