Cognitive links between fear of failure and perfectionism

David E. Conroy, Miranda P. Kaye, Angela M. Fifer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


This study investigated links between three forms of perfectionism and beliefs associated with fear of failure (FF). College students (N = 372) enrolled in physical activity classes completed the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale and Performance Failure Appraisal Inventory in a single session. After controlling for other forms of perfectionism, only socially prescribed perfectionism (SPP) was strongly associated with beliefs that failure led to aversive interpersonal consequences (i.e., important others losing interest, upsetting important others). Other-oriented perfectionism (OOP) exhibited a weak negative relation with beliefs that failure would lead to devaluation of one's self-estimate; individuals who held the highest standards for others' behavior had the weakest beliefs that failure would lead to them devaluing their self-estimate. Self-oriented perfectionism (SOP) was not associated with any beliefs that failure led to aversive consequences; however, when SOP and OOP were simultaneously elevated, they contributed positively to fears of experiencing shame and embarrassment (above and beyond main effects of SPP). Collectively these findings indicated that FF was not ubiquitous with all forms of perfectionism because the specific beliefs about the consequences of failure that underlie different forms of perfectionism varied tremendously.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-253
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Rational - Emotive and Cognitive - Behavior Therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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