Effects of Failure on Subsequent Performance: The Importance of Self-Defining Goals

Joachim C. Brunstein, Peter M. Gollwitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Extending R. A. Wicklund and P. M. Gollwitzer's (1982) self-completion theory, 2 experiments examined the role of self-defining goals in predicting performance effects of failure among students committed to professional goals such as becoming a physician (Experiment 1) or a computer scientist (Experiment 2). Results of Experiment 1 revealed that failure on a task characterized as being relevant to students' professional self-definition led to (a) enhanced performance on a subsequent task relevant to the same self-definition and (b) impaired performance on a subsequent task unrelated to the self-definition challenged through prior failure. Experiment 2 replicated these findings. In addition, performance effects due to self-definitional failure were annulled when participants experienced intermittent social recognition for the aspired-to self-definition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-407
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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