Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Psychology (Social psychology)

First Advisor

Douglas A Gentile


Behavioral self-handicapping is a prevalent strategy among college students to protect positive views of themselves. Procrastination (Ferrari & Tice, 2000), alcohol consumption (Tucker et al., 1981), and inadequate practice (Tice & Baumeister, 1990) are considered to be academic self-handicapping behaviors because they all create some impediment to students' performance and facilitate a ready excuse for potential failures (Covington, 2000). Although a defense of one's self-concept can be provided by behavioral self-handicapping, self-handicapping behaviors come at a cost, such as non-optimal academic performance and self-deception (Zuckerman & Tsai, 2005). A lot of research has demonstrated the prevalence and negative effects of self-handicapping, but very few studies have examined methods that can reduce one's tendency to self-handicap (Kearns et al., 2007).

In the current set of studies, I proposed that an unstable self-concept gave rise to self-handicapping, and that such a self-concept was determined by self-worth contingency. I also proposed that mindfulness and self-compassion were potential intervention methods to reduce self-handicapping, because they might reduce self-concept instability.

In study 1, I examined whether academic performance feedback in a lab setting would influence students' academic concept. The result demonstrated that participants' explicit academic self-concept was altered by the feedback of their performance - a performance worse than average lowered participants' academic self-concept, and a performance better than average boosted participant's academic self-concept. I also examined if a short mindfulness meditation would help students to maintain a stable and competent academic self-concept after receiving positive or negative academic evaluations. The result demonstrated that mindfulness helped students to maintain a competent academic self-concept in an academic situation regardless of the valence of the feedback. The mindfulness intervention didn't, however, affect the relation between valence of feedback and academic self-concept. The hypothesis that mindfulness would help students to maintain a stable self-concept was not supported.

In study 2, I examined if a short mindfulness meditation or a short self-compassion meditation helped students to lower their self-handicapping behavior in an evaluative situation. The self-compassion meditation helped students to choose more facilitating music during an academic test (i.e., an indicator of less self-handicapping) when they were faced with an evaluative situation, whereas mindfulness meditation had no effect. There was no difference in state self-handicapping tendency, or the time students spent on a distracting task during test preparation (i.e., another indicator of less self-handicapping).

In study 3, I examined if a short mindfulness meditation or a short self-compassion meditation helped students to lower their contingency of self-worth, which then might reduce self-handicapping behavior. The results demonstrated that the proposed mediation effect was not supported by the data. There was no evidence that self-worth contingency mediated the association between experimental manipulation and self-handicapping behaviors.

In conclusion, college students' academic self-concept was unstable enough to be altered by a single academic feedback. Mindfulness meditation was effective to help students keep a competent academic concept after receiving academic feedback. Self-compassion showed potential to lower one's self-handicapping behavior, but it was unclear if this effect was mediated by self-worth contingency or not.


Copyright Owner

Lanmiao He



File Format


File Size

129 pages