Are positive self-perceptions and expectancies really beneficial in an academic context?

  • C Ochse


The main aim of this study was to discover interrelations between university students' self-perceptions, expectancies, and academic achievement. A sample of 645 Unisa students was divided into three groups: Overestimators, Realists, and Underestimators. The data revealed that, compared to Underestimators, Overestimators (a) expected significantly higher marks; (b) were significantly more confident about their expectations, and (c) perceived themselves to have significantly more ability. Although Overestimators had more positive psychological profiles than Underestimators, they gained significantly lower marks than Underestimators (47% and 76% respectively) in the examinations. In strong contrast to major psychological theories the results suggest that, in a university context, (a) poor performance is not associated with negative self-perceptions and low expectancies, and (b) overoptimistic self-perceptions and high expectancies may in fact be maladaptive. Indeed these results suggest that humble self-assessments may be more conducive to success.

(South African Journal of Higher Education: 2003 17 (1): 67-73)

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eISSN: 1011-3487