Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Robert Arkin

Robert Arkin

[Note: Professor Bob Arkin died of cancer on December 12, 2012, at the age of 66. Social Psychology Network is maintaining this profile for visitors who wish to learn more about Professor Arkin's work.]

Professor Arkin's research interests include attribution theory, self-presentation, self-handicapping, and more general issues in the area of emotion and motivation.

Recent work in Dr. Arkin's laboratory has been focused on the topic of overachievement. The self-handicapper and the overachiever may in many ways be similar. Each is fearful that failure will implicate competence. Each has an abnormal investment in the question of self-worth. However, one succeeds in avoiding failure through persistent effort, the other embraces failure as an alternative to self-implicating feedback. Phenotypically, the self-handicapper and the overachiever could not look more different. For instance, the self-handicapper is likely to withdraw effort; the overachiever is likely to expend heroic effort. The overachiever avoids failure, seemingly at all costs; the self-handicapper flirts with disaster, enhancing the probability of failure by the very act of self-handicapping. Yet, genotypically, the two types of behavior appear to be inspired by the same motivational force: self-doubt.

Because overachievers tend to do well and enjoy outcomes conventionally regarded in our society as "success," little attention has been paid to this group. Our research shows that overachievers are distinguishable not only by their thoughts and feelings, but by their behavior as well. The overachievement strategy appears to be as intriguing as its companion, self-handicapping. A scale designed to measure overachievement, with a two-factor structure ("self-doubt" and "need for success"), is both reliable and shows convergent and discriminant construct validity.

Primary Interests:

  • Causal Attribution
  • Emotion, Mood, Affect
  • Motivation, Goal Setting
  • Personality, Individual Differences
  • Self and Identity

Research Group or Laboratory:


Journal Articles:

  • Baumgardner, A. H., Heppner, P. P., & Arkin, R. M. (1986). Role of causal attribution in personal problem solving. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 636-643.
  • Kolditz, T., & Arkin, R. M. (1982). An impression management interpretation of the self-handicapping phenomenon. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, 492-502.
  • Lake, E. A., & Arkin, R. M. (1985). Reactions to objective and subjective interpersonal evaluation: The influence of social anxiety. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 3, 143-160.
  • Oleson, K. C., & Arkin, R. M. (1994). More than ingratiating. Retrospective review of E. E. Jones (1964) Ingratiation. Contemporary Psychology, 39, 455-458.
  • Shepperd, J. A., & Arkin, R. M. (1991). Behavioral other-enhancement: Strategically obscuring the link between performance and evaluation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 79-88.
  • Shepperd, J. A., & Arkin, R. M. (1989). Self-handicapping: The mediating roles of public self-consciousness and task importance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 15, 252-265.
  • Shepperd, J. A., & Arkin, R. M. (1988). Determinants of self-handicapping: Task importance and the effects of preexisting handicaps on self-generated handicaps. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 15, 101-112.
  • Shepperd, J. A., Arkin, R. M., Slaughter, J. (1995). Constraints in excuse-making: The deterring effects of shyness and anticipated retest. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 1061-1072.
  • Shepperd, J. A., Arkin, R. M., Strathman, A. J., & Baker, S. M. (1993). Dysphoria as a moderator of the relationship between perceived effort and perceived ability. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 559-569.

Other Publications:

  • Arkin, R. M., Oleson, K. C. (1996). Self-Handicapping. In J. Darley & J. Cooper (Eds.), The legacy of Ned Jones. American Psychology Association.
  • Poehlmann, K. M., & Arkin, R. M. (1994). Social comparison. In V. S. Ramachandran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Human Behavior. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Robert Arkin
Department of Psychology
Ohio State University
1885 Neil Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43210-1222
United States

  • Phone: (614) 292-2726

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