The relationship of the impostor phenomenon to college major and attributional style
This study investigated aspects of the impostor phenomenon, which has been defined by previous research as an internal experience of intellectual phoniness experienced mainly by high achievers. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether a relationship exists between a student's college major and occurrence of the impostor phenomenon to determine if students of certain college major are more susceptible to impostor feelings than others. A secondary purpose of this study was to determine whether a relationship exists between an individual's attributional style and the presence of impostor feelings. A total of 349 undergraduate students from two private colleges participated in this study. The subjects completed the Harvey Impostor Phenomenon Scale (HIPS), The Attributional Style Questionnaire (ASQ) and provided demographic information. The results of this study failed to suggest that a relationship exists between the student's choice of major and the presence of impostor feelings. College major was found to account for an insignificant amount of variation in HIPS scores. An unexpected finding of this study, however, indicated that students with low grade point averages (below 2.5) were more likely to experience impostor feelings than those with high grade point averages (above 3.6). This finding contradicts previous research which suggested that the impostor phenomenon is experienced primarily by high achievers. A relationship was found between the occurrence of the impostor phenomenon and certain attributional styles. Variation in scores on the ASQ accounted for a significant portion of variation in HIPS scores. The subjects who tended to attribute positive life events to external, unstable, specific causes and negative life events to internal, stable, global causes scored higher on the impostor scale. These individuals attributed successes to causes other than ability and attributed personal failures to causes such as lack of ability. In addition, they tended to view success as situational and fleeting while negative events were seen as long standing.
Cheryl Joy Pankow Roets,
"The relationship of the impostor phenomenon to college major and attributional style"
(January 1, 1991).
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