Effects of Feedback on Academic Locus of Control and Contingencies of Self-worth

Abbie Hessler        

Students completing an online research study.

Students completing an online research study.

Undergraduate Student Project


There are many domains that individuals may come to base their self-worth in. Whether it be finances, virtue, or academics, it is unclear how and why some individuals come to stake their sense of self-worth in certain domains. My name is Abbie Hessler. I am a senior Psychology major at the University at Buffalo working under Dr. Lora Park as my mentor. I joined Dr. Park's Self and Motivation Lab in the Fall of 2018 as a research assistant and began working on my honors thesis focusing on academic contingencies of self-worth in the Fall of 2019. Literature surrounding contingencies of self-worth lacks a clear understanding of how and why some individuals come to base their self-esteem in certain domains. Therefore, I have designed and conducted an online research study examining the effects of feedback on academic locus of control (-i.e., the degree to which individuals believe their academic outcomes are under their personal control) and how this may lead to the development of academic contingent self-worth in some individuals.        


Research on contingencies of self-worth has focused primarily on the connection to self-esteem and the mostly negative outcomes associated with having one's self-worth contingent in a specific domain. Missing from this work is a clear understanding of how and why certain individuals come to develop contingencies of self-worth. To investigate this question, an experimental between-subjects research design will be used to test the hypothesis that receiving positive (vs. negative) feedback regarding one's academic performance, and perceptions of control over academic outcomes, will lead to academically contingent self-worth. A sample of approximately 300 university students will receive either positive or negative feedback regarding their academic performance relative to others, and the degree to which they base their current self-worth on academic competence will be measured. Vulnerabilities such as stress and pressure that students may experience as a result of academically contingent self-worth will also be evaluated.

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