House, W. C. (1976). Effect of locus of control, expectancy confirmation-disconfirmation, and type of goal on causal attributions of failure. Journal of Research in Personality, 10, 279-292.

Some attributions to performance outcomes are ability, effort, task difficulty, and luck. Some characteristics of individuals relate to reasons acknowledged as causes for outcome failures.

Internal individuals perceive reinforcements as being a consequence of their own actions, that is, factors over which they have control. Externals perceive reinforcements as being a consequence of external forces such as luck, chance, and fate.

In a study involving university students and an anagrams test, following expected failure internals blamed themselves and externals blamed outside factors. However, findings were not as simple as theory would predict when unexpected failure was experienced.

  1. For internal Ss unexpected failures are attributed to variable external factors whereas for expected failures they are attributed to internal factors.
  2. Internal Ss recorded higher ratings of lack of ability to account for expected than unexpected failures.
  3. When compared to externals, internals paid more attention to and utilization of cues providing information to help make decisions and resolve uncertainties.
  4. When a goal is other-determined, externals explain failure in terms of task difficulty.
  5. When goals are self-determined, there is no difference between internals and externals for failure attribution. Both evaluate their goals as being too high for the task.

Implication. For athletic performances which are largely athlete determined, goals should be primarily self-determined. Athletes should be taught how to set goals and to develop considerable levels of self-control.

Return to Table of Contents for this issue.