LINKS BETWEEN CAUSAL UNCERTAINTY BELIEFS, CLAIMED AND BEHAVIOURAL SELF- HANDICAPPING FOLLOWING SUCCESS, NONCONTINGENT SUCCESS AND NONCONTINGENT FAILURE FEEDBACK
Thompson, T. and Hepburn, J., University of Tasmania, Australia
While a number of studies have investigated the correlates of causal uncertainty in social domains, comparatively few studies have examined the correlates of causal uncertainty in achievement contexts. In this study we investigated links between causal uncertainty and claimed and behavioural self-handicapping. Aware of the potential of noncontingent evaluative feedback to give rise to uncertain self-images and self-handicapping behaviours, we assigned N=36 high and N=36 low trait causal uncertainty participants to one of three performance feedback conditions: contingent success, noncontingent failure, and noncontingent success. Participants then completed 20 single-solution anagrams and 12 remote associate problems in order to assess performance effects for high and low causal uncertainty participants across each of the performance feedback conditions. Finally, participants were given an opportunity to "warm up" prior to being tested for their capacity to solve 16 unicursal tasks (8 soluble, 8 insoluble), serving as an assessment of behavioural self-handicapping, here operationalised as reduced practice effort. Assessments of anxiety, attributions and affective reactions were also gained immediately following performance feedback. Relative to participants low in causal uncertainty, participants high in causal uncertainty claimed more handicaps, attributed their performance more to stable, external factors, reported greater state anxiety, and reduced practice effort on the unicursal tasks. These data suggest that uncertainty about the causes of achievement outcomes is associated with anxiety and self-handicapping in intellectually evaluative situations with performance-limiting consequences. These negative consequences are exacerbated by exposure to noncontingent evaluative feedback.