Self-handicapping refers to a phenomenon where a person cognitively behaves in a particular manner to prevent failure, which would, otherwise, erode his/her self-esteem (Higgins, Snyder, & Berglas, 2013). It dates back to Edward Jones and Steven Berglas who first coined the word. They defined Self-handicapping as any behavior that gives one an opportunity to internalize success and externalize failure. A common type of self-handicapping is academic self-handicapping. It refers to the actions students make to prevent potential failure in their studies (Martin, 2013).
Psychologists and researchers believe that self-handicapping is a common principle among human beings. Similarly, they have published many articles to argue this case and expound more on this principle (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2014). Among them is that seeking to understand the impact of age and personality on academic self-handicapping by Litvinova A. et al. The other one is by Cheng and Law on how the predictive relationship between personality traits influences academic self-handicapping when mediated by self-esteem.
Despite the close association of these articles, their researchers had a different objective when conducting the studies. In the first article, Litvinova and colleagues had an aim of understanding how age affects self-handicapping among undergraduate students. They also wanted to establish if academic procrastination (as a factor of self-handicapping) is a factor of personality. Therefore, they sampled students of different ages to examine this phenomenon (Litvinova, Balarabe, & Mohammed, 2015).
In the second study, the researchers wanted to establish how personality traits, coupled with self-esteem influence academic self-handicapping. They founded their study title on the premises that neuroticism personality has a significant impact on academic self-handicapping. They also endeavored to pursue their study title because they believed that previous researchers did not address the relationship between personality and academic self-handicapping fully. Therefore, they purposed to understand it (Litvinova, Balarabe, & Mohammed, 2015).
Due to these differences, every study followed a particular methodology to explore its respective study topic. Litvinova and fellow researchers conducted their study exclusively at Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria. Through purposive sampling, they assembled 440 respondents of different ages from four faculties within the university. Of them, 121 were female and while 319 were male. Additionally, 272 were between 20 and 25 years. Those below 20 years were 94 while 71 were above 26 years. The main instruments in this study were Big Five Inventory (BFI) and Self-Handicapping Scale (SHS). Finally, the researchers used IBM SPSS program, statistics version to do data analysis (Litvinova, Balarabe, & Mohammed, 2015).
In the second article, Cheng and Law relied on cross-sectional study design. They limited their study to one private university. They then invited 62 (43 females and 19 males) undergraduate students of the psychology department from the institution. They did not have a precise sampling technique. Instead, participant selection was voluntary. The researchers rafted questionnaires, which assessed on personality, self-esteem, and self-handicapping, to collect data from the respondents over a period of two weeks. The primary instruments during the study were Leonard Personality Inventory (LPI), Academic Self-Handicapping Scale (ASHS) and Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale (RSES). During data analysis, the researchers used group means to generate results as opposed to individual results. They analyzed results using the SPSS software (Cheng & Law, 2015)
In the first article, Litvinova et al. presented their findings as follows. First, there is no critical correlation between extraversion and academic self-handicapping. Second, academic self-handicapping has a strong negative relationship with agreeableness and conscientiousness. Third, a significant correlation exists between four personality traits (neuroticism, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness) and academic self-handicapping. Lastly, the study established that there is a tight correlation between neuroticism personality trait and academic self-handicapping (Litvinova, Balarabe, & Mohammed, 2015).
In the second study, Cheng and Law had the following to say about study results. First, neutral personality is the only one, of the five available personalities that can predict academic self-handicapping. Second, they discovered that self-esteem representatively mediates a relationship between academic self-handicapping and personality. They also found that self-esteem eliminates any co-efficient between academic self-handicapping and relational esteem (Cheng & Law, 2015).
There are many examples in life on the concept of self-handicapping. For instance, student M has been skipping chemistry classes throughout the first semester in college. When the semester exams approached, he feared that he would not perform well in the chemistry paper. Therefore, he faked illness on the day of the exam to avoid scoring. After the exam period, student M approached the chemistry lecturer and requested for a special exam after a week. In his mind, he knew that a week was sufficient for him to study. In this case, student M is a victim of self-handicapping.
In another example, Jack, the basketball team captain has lost form recently. On the eve of the inter-school basketball tournament, he went skating instead of preparing with the rest of the team. During the real tournament, Jack’s performance was horrible that the coach had do substitute him in the second round. After the game, Jack comforted himself that his performance was because did not train with the team on the previous day. In this example, Jack’s consolation to self is an example of self-handicapping.
- Cheng, S. K., & Law, M. Y. (2015). Mediating Effect of Self-Esteem in the Predictive Relationship of Personality and Academic Self-Handcapping. American Journal of Applied Psychology, 51-57.
- Higgins, R., Snyder, C., & Berglas, S. (2013). Self-handicapping: The Paradox that Ins’t. New York: Plenum Press.
- Litvinova, A., Balarabe, M., & Mohammed, A. (2015). Influence of Personality Traits and Age on Academic Self-Handicapping among Undergraduate Students of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria. Psychology , 1995-2003.
- Martin, A. (2013). Building Classroom Success: Eliminating Academic Fear and Failure. London; New York: Continuum International Pub. Group.
- Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2014). Applied social psychology : understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles: Sage.