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Honest Self-Assessment Better Than False Praise

Owning up to failure or poor performance may be good for students' mental health, study suggests

THURSDAY, Oct. 27, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Trying to bolster your self-esteem by giving yourself high praise for low achievement could actually make you feel depressed, according to a new study.

Researchers conducted experiments with 295 U.S. college undergraduates and 2,780 high school students in Hong Kong.

High and low performers felt fine when they assessed themselves accurately, but participants who rated their performance as much better than it actually was were much more likely to feel depressed.

This is likely because high performers recognized their strengths and low performers acknowledged their weaknesses and could try to improve their future performance, according to the study in the October issue of the journal Emotion.

"These findings challenge the popular notion that self-enhancement and providing positive performance feedback to low performers is beneficial to emotional health. Instead, our results underscore the emotional benefits of accurate self-assessments and performance feedback," lead author Young-Hoon Kim, of the University of Pennsylvania, said in a journal news release.

In one experiment, U.S. and Hong Kong students took academic tests and were asked to rate and compare their own performances with other students at their schools. Afterward, the students answered a questionnaire to assess symptoms of depression.

Those who rated their own performance as better than it really was were more likely to feel down, according to the study.

"Distress following excessive self-praise is likely to occur when a person's inadequacy is exposed, and because inaccurate self-assessments can prevent self-improvement," said co-author Chi-Yue Chiu, of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, in the release.

The researchers also found that American students were more likely than Asian students to give their performance a high rating.

More information

Scholastic Teacher has more on why undeserved praise may be counterproductive.

SOURCE: Emotion, news release, Oct. 19, 2011
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