Affect as a mediator of attributional egotism

Walter G. Stephan, Peter M. Gollwitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A three-stage model of the relationships among achievement outcomes, outcome-related affect, attribution, and emotion is tested in two studies. It is suggested that success and failure elicit positive and negative affective states due to prior conditioning. These affective states then lead to an attribution process that serves to defend and enhance self-esteem. Next, emotional labels are chosen that are consistent with the affective states and the attributions. Two studies were designed to test the proposed relationships among achievement outcomes, affective states, and attributions. In the first study, subjects received information indicating that they were strongly or mildly aroused as a result of receiving outcome feedback on an achievement task. The results indicated that low arousal reduced egotistical attributions to internal factors. In the second study, subjects either succeeded or failed on an achievement task. Half of the subjects were provided with an opportunity to misattribute the arousal elicited by their outcomes to an irrelevant source. Subjects in the misattribution condition made less egotistical attributions to external factors than subjects who were given no opportunity to misattribute their arousal. The results of both studies suggest that outcome-related affect mediates the relationship between outcomes and attributions in achievement situations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-458
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1981

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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