Effects of fear of success on intrinsic motivation, causal attribution, and choice behavior

Miron Zuckerman, Deborah T. Larrance, Joseph F. Porac, Peter D. Blanck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Examined the extent to which fear of success (FOS) moderates effects of choice and task outcomes on intrinsic motivation, causal attribution, and subsequent choice behavior. 139 undergraduates worked either on puzzles of their choice or puzzles that were assigned to them and were then informed that they had performed either better or worse than the majority of other Ss. Measures of intrinsic motivation (task engagement during a free-choice period) and of attribution for performance were obtained. Ss then indicated how much choice they wanted to have over similar tasks that they were going to perform. Finally, Ss completed the Fear of Success Scale and a resultant achievement motivation measure. Results show that following success, low FOS Ss (in comparison to high FOS Ss) showed higher intrinsic motivation, made more internal attributions, and wanted to have more choice if initially they had been given choice and less choice if initially they had been given no choice. There were no significant differences between low and high FOS Ss following failure. Results could not be accounted for by resultant achievement motivation that was unrelated to FOS. (29 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)503-513
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1980
Externally publishedYes


  • causal attribution &
  • choice behavior, college students
  • fear of success, intrinsic motivation &

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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