Study: Excessive Praise On Poor Performance May Cause Depression
By Wendy Yang | Health & Medicine
November 2, 2011
Who would have thought that too much praise could hurt?
AsianScientist (Nov. 2, 2011) – “This is an easy class, so even though I didn’t study for that exam, I’m sure I still did fine,” you say.
New research from the American Psychological Association published in the October issue of Emotion shows that people who convince themselves they have performed well can become depressed when they realize their low results did not coincide with their high self-assessment.
Conversely, accurate self-assessments for both high and low performers did not lead to dramatic changes in emotional state, probably because these performers acknowledged their strengths and weaknesses and ability to maintain or improve performance.
Experiments were done on four sets of young people, with three groups from the United States (295 college undergraduates, with 186 women and a mean age of 19) and one group from Hong Kong (2,780 high school students, with 939 girls, from four different schools and across grades 7-12).
In the first scenario, one U.S. and Hong Kong group took academic tests, then rated and compared their own performances with other students at their schools. Afterwards, participants completed another widely used questionnaire to assess symptoms of depression.
In the next scenario, the two other U.S. groups were evaluated with feedback exercises that made high performers think their performance was low and low performers think their performance was high. Control groups participated in both and received their scores with no feedback.
Results from all studies showed that participants who highly overestimated their performance were significantly more likely to feel dejected.
“Distress following excessive self-praise is likely to occur when a person’s inadequacy is exposed, and because inaccurate self-assessments can prevent self-improvement,” said co-author Chi-Yue Chiu from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
Furthermore, the results also supported past findings of cross-cultural differences that Asians are more humble than Americans.
U.S. undergraduates had a higher mean response when rating their performance than those from Hong Kong (63 percent versus 49 percent); however, the main conclusion that excessive self-enhancement was related to depression held true for both cultures.
“These findings challenge the popular notion that self-enhancement and providing positive performance feedback to low performers is beneficial to emotional health,” said lead author Dr. Young-Hoon Kim of the University of Pennsylvania.
“Instead, our results underscore the emotional benefits of accurate self-assessments and performance feedback,” he added.
Source: American Psychological Association.
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