Attitudes towards the high achiever: Effects of perceiver's own level of competence

N. T. Feather

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    27 Citations (Scopus)


    This study investigated attitudes towards those who are conspicuously successful tail poppies and reactions when a tall poppy falls. High school students in Grade 11 answered a questionnaire designed to assess attitudes towards tall poppies, a modified version of the Rosenberg self–esteem scale, and questions about their own standing in class. Teachers' ratings of class achievement were also obtained. Students also provided their reactions to Ben Johnson's loss of the gold medal at the Seoul Olympics shortly after this event occurred. Results showed that students with low global self‐esteem and low perceived self‐competence were more likely to favour the fall of tall poppies and less likely to favour rewarding tall poppies when compared with those with high global self–esteem and high perceived self‐competence. Students with low global self‐esteem, however, were more likely to show sympathy for Ben Johnson (a fallen tall poppy) than students with high global self‐esteem, although subjects in general disapproved of Ben Johnson's transgression. These results are related to theories concerned with similarity/attraction, self‐categorisation, and social comparison. They are also taken to extend our understanding of the emotions of envy and sympathy. 1991 Australian Psychological Society

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)121-124
    Number of pages4
    JournalAustralian Journal of Psychology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 1991


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