Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Acting for the right reasons : an investigation of the utility of fear of failure from a positive psychology perspective
Author: Nichols, Brianne
ISNI:       0000 0004 7967 7259
Awarding Body: Bangor University
Current Institution: Bangor University
Date of Award: 2019
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
Positive Psychology has predominantly been concerned with the study of positive emotions and states in relation to flourishing until the rise of its second wave that inspired explorations of the 'darker side' of human nature for a more nuanced understanding of how people can flourish under a wide range of life circumstances. The research comprising this thesis was approached with the philosophy of the second wave of Positive Psychology as a framework and aimed through the use of various methodologies, to explore the adaptive role of negative emotions in goal-pursuit with specific focus on fear of failure. Chapter one consists of an exploratory study of a mixed-method nature that made use of a SenseMaker® software tool to explore the depth of the fear of failure experience in hopes of making a judgement regarding its value in goal-pursuit. Two-hundred participants provided a narrative of a fear of failure experience and attributed their own meaning to the story in a self-signification framework designed by the researcher to capture the cognitive, emotional and behavioural profiles of fear of failure. The existence of individual differences in behavioural responses to affective experiences of fear of failure was uncovered as a potential important factor to consider in the study of the utility of negative emotions and therefore inspired the second study to address this issue in a goal-achievement context. Accordingly, study two forms the experimental Chapter and is concerned with a sub-group of the population known as defensive pessimists who provide support for the positive value of negative emotions. These individuals are known to harness their negative emotions to successfully achieve goals and any attempts made to disrupt their habitual strategy negatively affects performance. With the supporting argument that emotion regulation strategies do not offer a 'one-size-fits all' solution, Chapter Two aimed to test the effect of an acceptance manipulation, which unlike other regulatory strategies do not seek to directly change thoughts and emotions. Forty-eight defensive pessimists took part and were randomly allocated to manipulation and control groups. The ability of acceptance to create a cognitive space to allow the habitual harnessing of emotion to cease for defensive pessimists provided an opportunity for further investigation in Chapter Three of how to best make use of this space to help defensive pessimists. The final Chapter therefore, consists of an intervention study that contrary to many previous intervening attempts aimed to build enduring resources to support long-term wellbeing and valued goal achievement among defensive pessimists. Twenty-one out of forty-five participants took part in individual coaching sessions consisting of material aimed at increasing self-worth and value-based action. The remaining twenty-four participants formed the control group. Taken as a whole, this research has made important contribution to the study of individual differences in motivation and Positive Psychology and holds wider implications in the context of Higher Education especially. The encompassing message of this thesis is that while negative emotions are both functional and adaptive, their utility for goal achievement can impair wellbeing in the process which poses a dilemma for those in favour of promoting one over the other. The solution proposed in the context of individuals who thrive off of negative emotions is to enable both through a readiness to accept all emotional stimuli and within this space choose to move in spite of fear, but in the direction of intrinsic values and from a place of knowing one's worth.
Supervisor: Parkinson, John Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: motivation ; wellbeing ; fear of failure ; acceptance ; positive psychology