Causal attributions for success and failure at university examinations

J. G. Simon, N. T. Feather

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    95 Citations (Scopus)


    Asked 130 male and 112 female undergraduates to rate their ability, amount of preparation, task difficulty, and their initial confidence (expectation) before they began an important examination. Subsequently Ss attributed causality for the examination outcome by rating the importance of factors involving ability, preparation, task difficulty, and luck as causes. Results show that amount of preparation (knowledge) contributed most to initial confidence ratings, followed by amount of ability. Expected outcomes tended to be attributed to the stable dispositional factor most influencing initial confidence or expectation (namely, knowledge) and unexpected outcomes to good or bad luck. There was evidence of ego-enhansive and ego-defensive strategies following success and failure, respectively, and evidence that females saw external causes as more important than did males. Some general conclusions about causal attribution, based on present and previous findings, are provided. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)46-56
    Number of pages11
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1973


    • confidence, postexamination causal attribution for success &
    • failure, college students
    • preexamination self-ratings of ability &
    • preparation &
    • task difficulty &


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