UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

The impact of hypothetical explanations on performance : generalizability and the mediating effects of self-esteem Fairey, Patricia Jean


This study examined the extent to which the effects of generating hypothetical success/failure explanations and initial expectations would generalize and affect performance on subsequent unexplained tasks. Two types of generalization were examined; the extent to which explanation and initial expectation effects would generalize to a related, but unexplained, task performed immediately after explanations and expectations had been elicited; and the extent to which the explanation and initial expectation effects would generalize to performance on a subsequent (second) task despite the intervention of actual performance experience on a first task. The potential moderating effects of self-esteem on the processes described above were also examined. A hypothetical explanation task was used to make success- or failure-related cognitions differentially available for 60 high self-esteem (HSE) and 60 low self-esteem (LSE) subjects. Subjects wrote an explanation for either a hypothetical failure or success, or wrote no explanation (control) regarding performance on the Remote Associate Test (RAT). After stating performance expectancies for the RAT, half of the subjects worked on this task while the other half worked on the related anagram task. All subjects then stated performance expectancies for a word generation task and worked on this task. The results provided support for the first type of generalization; the hypothetical explanation manipulation (in conjunction with self-esteem) affected performance on the first task regardless of whether the task was the explained (RAT) or the related (anagram) task. Success explanations increased the first-task performance of both HSE and LSE subjects, whereas failure explanations only decreased the performance of LSE subjects. The results also indicated, however, that the explanation manipulation did not generalize over time and affect performance on the subsequent (second) task. The results are discussed in terms of current self-esteem theory and the cognitive processes associated with generating causal scenarios for success and failure, expectations and performance.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.