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Perfectionism revisited: Can perfectionism serve as an achievement motivator?

25 July 1997


Perfectionism is a construct that has been linked to various psychological problems. More recent research has made a distinction between types of perfectionism (self-oriented, socially prescribed, and other-oriented) and how these different types of perfectionism are differentially related to forms of maladjustment. Although socially prescribed perfectionism appears to be related with more severe types of psychopathology, self-oriented and socially prescribed perfectionism are both associated with depression. However, self-oriented perfectionism is also associated with selfconfidence, self-efficacy, and self-control. Furthermore, self-oriented perfectionism is associated with high personal standards and high goal commitment. Dweck's theory of goal orientation (Elliott & Dweck, 1988) posits that there are two approaches one may take inpursuit of goals and that the approach sets into motion differing cognitive, affective, and behavioral patterns. A learning oriented approach is considered adaptive because it results in the accomplishment of difficult tasks but a performance oriented approach is considered maladaptive because it results in avoidance of difficult tasks. Using Dweck's theory of goal orientation, this paper offers a theory as to how the three types of perfectionism may or may not serve as achievement motivators.


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