Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Clinical Psychology


Department of Psychology


Attitude (Psychology), Thought and thinking, Defense mechanisms (Psychology), Psychology, Pathological


This study examined the potential effectiveness of claimed depression and alcohol use as self-handicapping strategies. This study is based on the premise that the more favorably a protagonist and his or her actions are rated, the more effective his or her particular self-handicapping strategy will be. Subjects of both genders rated male and female protagonists and their actions, described in short newspaper-like accounts, on responsibility, blame, cause, likability, sympathy, and acceptability of actions. Protagonists engaged in either poor job performance or child abuse and neglect, and they either claimed depression, were using alcohol, or gave no explanation for their behavior.

Neither claimed depression nor alcohol use proved to be effective self-handicapping strategies. Protagonists claiming depression were rated more favorably than those with no handicap only on the sympathy variable. These two groups were not differentially rated on the other five variables. The relative ineffectiveness of claimed depression as a self-handicapping strategy may be explained by an insufficient number of subjects used in this study, by the fact that protagonists claiming depression were not portrayed as having been clinically diagnosed as depressed, or by an insufficient amount of information provided in the short accounts.

Contrary to prior research, protagonists with no handicap were rated more favorably than alcohol users. Male subjects in particular rated the actions of protagonists with no handicap as more acceptable than those of alcohol users. This finding may reflect a greater awareness, especially among males, of responsible versus irresponsible drinking behavior in our society today than in the past. It is also possible that alcohol use is likely to be viewed as undesirable, in and of itself, when it accompanies another undesirable behavior.

Study results also suggest that women may hold others more responsible for undesirable behavior than do men, and that men seem to be more accepting than women of undesirable behavior. Both genders seem to find undesirable behavior less acceptable for women than for men, suggesting than women are held to a higher standard of behavior than men. This may be due to the greater likelihood of men than women to engage in undesirable behavior.

Rights Statement

Copyright © 1995, author