Fear of failure and achievement goals in sport: Addressing the issue of the chicken and the egg

David E. Conroy, Andrew J. Elliot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

118 Scopus citations


The hierarchical model of achievement motivation proposes that, in addition to need achievement, fear of failure (FF) energizes achievement behaviour and predisposes individuals to adopt particular types of achievement goals. An impressive volume of cross-sectional support for this model has emerged, however, the causal assumptions of the model have never been tested. College students (N = 356) enrolled in physical activity classes completed multidimensional measures of FF and achievement goals on four occasions in a 3-week interval. FF was positively related to mastery-avoidance (MAv), performance-approach (PAp), and performance-avoidance (PAv) achievement goals. FF scores predicted residualized change in MAv and PAv (but not MAp or PAp) goal scores across occasions. Goal scores did not reliably predict residualized change in FF scores across occasions. Results were consistent with the hierarchical model of achievement motivation and suggest that FF may indeed have a causal influence on achievement goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-285
Number of pages15
JournalAnxiety, Stress and Coping
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1 2004


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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