Academic Self-Handicapping: What We Know, What More There is to Learn

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Some students put off studying until the last minute, fool around the night before a test, and otherwise reduce effort so that if their subsequent performance is low, these circumstances will be seen as the cause rather than lack of ability. These strategies are called self-handicapping because they often undermine performance. In this paper, we begin with a definition of academic self-handicapping. Next, we review our research in which we used achievement goal theory as a framework for examining academic handicapping among elementary and middle school students. We discuss the implications of the recent conceptualization of approach and avoidance components of performance goals for handicapping. We conclude with a consideration of some potentially fruitful future directions for research on academic self-handicapping, focusing particularly on individual differences in handicapping, contextual influences, and the methods used to study handicapping.

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