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The effect of the impostor phenomenon and self-handicapping on performance
Identity conflict can play a significant role in how individuals handle the tasks presented to them. Impostorism, or the feeling that one is a fake, is one example of identity conflict. We investigate the mediating effect of self-handicapping on the link between impostorism and task performance. Furthermore, we posit that impostor gender is likely to play a role in the degree to which impostorism affects performance. Testing our assumptions with a population of undergraduate students, we found that impostorism significantly correlated with trait self-handicapping in both sexes, yet only predicted lower overall course grades in males. In a more specific test, high impostor males exerted less effort (i.e., self-handicapped) and performed worse on the second exam in the class only when they performed poorly on the first exam. Low impostor males improved their score on the second exam when performing poorly on the first.