Testing self-enhancement and self-assessment theories of achievement motivation: A reply to Sohn's critique

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Recently, Sohn (1984) published a critique of our research program on self-enhancement and self-assessment in achievement behavior (Trope, 1983; Trope & Brickman, 1975). The critique is mainly concerned with the information subjects receive about the diagnostic value of tasks regarding their ability. Sohn argues that diagnosticity information is extraneous to achievement motivation and that its presence creates an artificial situation that is irrelevant to extant achievement theories. Furthermore, he argues that our research program failed to separate informational value from affective value and that the two cannot be separated. Contrary to Sohn's criticism regarding task diagnosticity, our studies show that (1) the antecedents and consequences of perceived diagnosticity are the very same variables that serve to define the achievement domain in extant achievement theories, and (2) our experimental situations fulfill the assumption of extant achievement theories regarding the arousal of achievement motivation. Sohn's criticism regarding the inseparability of affective value and informational value is most clearly contradicted by research showing that the diagnostic value of failure increases informational value but decreases affective value. It is argued that Sohn's objection to the unconfounding of informational and affective value runs counter to the experimental method of theory testing. Finally, it is shown that Sohn's other, more specific criticisms either ignore or distort past research on self-enhancement and self-assessment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-261
Number of pages15
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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