Inferior performance as a selective response to expectancy: Taking a dive to make a point

Roy F. Baumeister, Joel Cooper, Bryan A. Skib

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Investigated factors that determine whether persons conform to what is expected of them or not. 40 female undergraduates took a bogus personality test that established either publicly or privately that they had a particular (fictional) trait, which was presented either as a very desirable or a very undesirable trait. Ss then attempted an anagram-solving task after being informed that persons with this trait usually perform poorly on such tasks. Ss for whom the expectancy was presented as derived from the desirable trait, when it was publicly established that they had this trait, solved significantly fewer anagrams than Ss in the other 3 conditions, implying that self-presentational concerns are important in determining the extent to which an expectancy influences behavior. Differences between the number of anagram solutions Ss reported during the experiment and the number of actually correct solutions suggested that when the expectancy was linked to an undesirable trait, Ss actively sought to disconfirm it. (27 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)424-432
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 1979

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • desirability &
  • public vs private context of expectancy, behavioral response, female college students


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