Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


It has been found that the arousal of achievement-related motives is maximized in situations that involve resolving uncertainty for uncertainty-oriented people, and in situations that do not involve uncertainty resolution for certainty-oriented people (see Sorrentino & Short, 1986). Higgins, Strauman, and Klein (1986) proposed that discrepancies between the way we perceive ourselves and abstract representations of what we could be like, or should be like, may determine motivation because of the resulting affect; they suggested that ideal/own discrepancies lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and increased performance, whereas ought/other discrepancies result in anxiety and poorer performance. Self-discrepancies may also involve uncertainty, however, because they leave us uncertain as to whether we are capable of reaching a self-standard. The principal prediction, therefore, was that success-oriented people would outperform failure-threatened people to a greater extent (reflecting the arousal of achievement-related motives) when there is a perceived self-discrepancy for uncertainty-oriented people, and when there is little or no perceived self-discrepancy for certainty-oriented people. Two studies were conducted to test these predictions. The first was a field study in which students' self-discrepancies regarding performance in a university course were examined in relation to their subsequent performance in that course. The second study involved an experimental manipulation of whether or not subjects experienced self-discrepancies. Feedback from an initial task was varied such that it either indicated that subjects had, or that they had not lived up to their standard, immediately before performing a second task. Results for both studies supported the primary hypothesis; the predicted interaction was found in Study 1 when analysing for ought/other discrepancies (but not when analysing for ideal/own discrepancies), and was also found in Study 2. The proposals by Higgins et al. (1986) regarding the different motivational impact of ideal/own and ought/other discrepancies received partial support in Study 1 only. Results for these studies demonstrate the importance of uncertainty orientation, in interaction with achievement-related motives, in determining the implications of self-discrepancies for achievement. Implications for both the theory of uncertainty orientation, and self-discrepancy theory, are discussed.



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