Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The purpose of the present investigation was to examine individual differences in children's responding to an achievement-oriented testing situation including a failure experience. One hundred fifth and sixth graders participated in the three sessions of the study. During two of these sessions, failure experiences were programmed. The children completed personality measures assessing test anxiety, depression, locus of control and self-concept, school grades and teacher ratings were collected, measures of performance change following a failure were taken and ratings of task focus, causal attributions for failure, task enjoyment, performance evaluation and future expectancies were obtained. The study allowed for an examination of the overlap among the personality measures, an examination of the intercorrelations among the set of performance ratings collected, as well as an examination of the association between the personality measures and performance change and ratings. The question of consistency in responding to failure across tasks and times was addressed. The study explored the processes underlying performance deficits associated with failure, in order to examine motivational and attentional influences. Finally, correspondence between the measures obtained in the experimental sessions, and behaviours seen in school was studied. Significant intercorrelations were found among the set of personality measures. There were also strong intercorrelations among the set of ratings that the children made, although these were unrelated to either actual performance or performance change following failure. Moreover, children entered the session with varying expectancies about performance and made ratings about performance in line with these initial expectancies. Test anxiety and depression were most strongly related to the ratings of performance made. They were also associated with deteriorated performance following failure. In response to failure, however, depression was associated with a decrease in responding, whereas test anxiety was associated with a response activation. Performance deterioration was also associated with a lower self-concept, and most strongly with an orientation in which external attributions for success and ability attributions for failure were made. Very limited evidence of consistency in manner of responding across sessions or correspondence between laboratory and school behavior was provided.



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