Admission of failure and symbolic self-completion: Extending Lewinian theory

Peter Gollwitzer, Robert A. Wicklund, James L. Hilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Determined, in a preliminary study with 174 undergraduates, that there are conditions under which the readiness to deprecate oneself is positively related to that person's strengths within the domain where self-descriptions are relevant. In 2 experiments, 74 male undergraduates undertook self-relevant actions within the context of particular self-definitions (e.g., journalist, guitarist). In Exp I, half the Ss were allowed to write a self-descriptive essay to completion, while the others were interrupted. Subsequently, Ss were asked to list mistakes they had made in the realm of their respective self-definitions. Uninterrupted Ss admitted more readily to mistakes than did interrupted Ss. In Exp II, the extent of Ss' self-abasement became the independent variable. Ss were given 15 min to write a supportive self-descriptive essay. Ss who had been induced to be self-abasing were the least likely to interrupt themselves while writing the essay. Results are interpreted within the framework of symbolic self-completion theory. (36 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-371
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1982


  • likelihood of interruption while writing self definition, college students
  • self deprecation &

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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