Cognitive styles: links with perfectionistic thinking

Cognitive styles: links with perfectionistic thinking

Personality and Individual Differences 38 (2005) 103–113 Cognitive styles: links with perfectionistic thinking Lawrence R...

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Personality and Individual Differences 38 (2005) 103–113

Cognitive styles: links with perfectionistic thinking Lawrence R. Burns *, Brandy A. Fedewa Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI, 49401, United States Received 23 July 2003; received in revised form 13 February 2004; accepted 26 March 2004 Available online 26 June 2004

Abstract This study examined the associations positive and negative perfectionism have with multiple cognitive processes including constructive thinking, emotional, behavioral, and ruminative coping and categorical thinking and stereotyping. The view taken in this study is that there is an essential distinction between positive and negative perfectionists. Results indicated that negative perfectionists were poor constructive thinkers and exhibited maladaptive coping in reaction to stress. Positive perfectionists were found to engage problems actively and to be conscientious. However they may preferentially react behaviorally rather than emotionally, and they were not as creative and free thinking as expected. Positive perfectionists endorsed positive stereotypes and negative perfectionists endorsed only negative ones. Ó 2004 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Keywords: Positive and negative perfection; Rumination; Cognitive styles; Positive stereotypes

1. Introduction Perfectionism has traditionally been viewed as maladaptive. It has been linked to many psychopathologies including depressive symptoms (Flett, Hewitt, Garshowitz, & Martin, 1997; Hewitt & Flett, 1991, 1993; Norman, Davies, Nicholson, Cortese, & Malla, 1998), anxiety (Blankstein, Flett, Hewitt, & Eng, 1993; Flett, Hewitt, & Dyck, 1989; Flett, Hewitt, Endler, & Tassone, 1995; Mitchelson & Burns, 1998; Norman et al., 1998), interpersonal problems (Hill, Zrull, & Turlington, 1997), problems expressing emotions, especially anger (Ferrari, 1995), and neuroticism, characterized by an inability to handle stress well, anxious and apprehensive behaviors, and proneness to worry (Flett et al., 1989).


Corresponding author. Tel.: +1-616-331-2862; fax: +1-616-331-2480. E-mail address: [email protected] (L.R. Burns).

0191-8869/$ - see front matter Ó 2004 Published by Elsevier Ltd. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2004.03.012


L.R. Burns, B.A. Fedewa / Personality and Individual Differences 38 (2005) 103–113

Perfectionism has been associated with irrational beliefs, which have been linked to anxiety and depression as well. Flett, Hewitt, Blankstein, and Koledin (1991) examined the relationship of core irrational beliefs to perfectionism and found correlates with three dimensions of perfectionism: self-oriented, other-oriented, and socially prescribed perfectionism. Irrational beliefs may mediate emotional states, and they may be a major cause of emotional distress. Irrational beliefs include: high self-expectations, need for social approval, blame proneness, frustration reactivity, emotional irresponsibility, anxious over-concern, problem avoidance, dependency, helplessness, and the need for perfect solutions (Flett et al., 1991). ‘‘Should’’ and ‘‘must’’ statements are also parts of irrational thinking. However, a different perspective emerges when the perfectionism construct is expanded to include a positive side. Perfectionism has been related to normal and adaptive behaviors (Flett, Russo, & Hewitt, 1994; Frost, Martin, Lahart, & Rosenblate, 1990; Hamachek, 1978; Norman et al., 1998; Terry-Short, Owens, Slade, & Dewey, 1995). Frost et al. (1990) found that the holding of personally high standards, which is a key part of perfectionism, is related to efficacy. Efficacy refers to a sense of control or the perception of oneÕs ability to cope with stress or challenges. Ashby and Rice (2002), using The Almost Perfect Scale-Revised, found that adaptive perfectionism was positively correlated with self-esteem and that maladaptive perfectionism was negatively correlated to self-esteem. Thus, perfectionism may have both neurotic and positive aspects (Frost et al., 1990; Hamachek, 1978; Terry-Short et al., 1995). In this study we explore the possibility that perfectionism has two components, one with positive and adaptive benefits, the other characterized by maladaptive consequences. We use a newer measure of perfectionism, the Positive and Negative Perfectionism Scale (Terry-Short et al., 1995), or PNP, which has two subscales. A positively oriented perfectionist is driven by positive reinforcements such as heightened self-esteem and self-satisfaction, whereas a negatively oriented perfectionist is driven by a fear of failure (Terry-Short et al., 1995). A positive perfectionist sets realistic expectations, whereas a negative perfectionist will consistently set unrealistically high standards (Terry-Short et al., 1995). Slade and Owens (1998) expand on the initial model (Terry-Short et al., 1995) by introducing a dual process explanation of positive and negative perfectionism. ‘‘The overt behavior of positive and negative perfectionists may appear identical, but their underlying goals are different’’ (Slade & Owens, 1998). Therefore emotional and cognitive differences may reflect important differences in self-concept and reactivity to failure. Cognitive-experiential self-theory (CEST) proposes that the mind has two ‘‘divisions’’, analytical, conscious thought processes and experiential, unconscious, automatic thought processes (Denes-Raj & Epstein, 1994; Epstein, 1994). Perfectionism would be viewed as unconscious and experiential, but with powerful effects on conscious thought. This study examines relationships between perfectionism and cognitive style, using the Constructive Thinking Inventory (Epstein & Meier, 1989), or CTI. The CTI is more strongly associated with practical kinds of achievement and with mental and physical well-being’’ (Epstein, 1994). Constructive thinking is the process by which we solve everyday problems in ways that minimize stressful outcomes (Epstein & Meier, 1989). These processes are coping styles. The CTI contains a global scale of constructive thinking and six main scales that are further divided into subscales (Epstein & Meier, 1989). ‘‘For the scales of Global Constructive Thinking, Emotional Coping, and Behavioral Coping. . .high scores are desirable. For the scales of Cate-

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gorical Thinking, Esoteric Thinking, and Personal Superstitious Thinking, low scores are desirable’’ (Epstein, 1994). Individuals who score high on the global scale are flexible thinkers and are optimistic. Their attempts to control a situation are reasonable, and they can accept what cannot be controlled, they are also accepting of themselves and of others (Epstein & Meier, 1989). One who scores high on the emotion coping scale is able to cope in a manner that does not produce further distress. Such people do not worry excessively, or overreact (Epstein & Meier, 1989). ‘‘They are self-accepting, do not take things personally, and are not excessively sensitive to disapproval, failure, or rejection’’ (Epstein, 1994). The behavioral coping scale measures how actionoriented a person is in response to a stress. Those who score high in behavioral coping can be described as being ‘‘optimistic, enthusiastic, energetic, and conscientious’’ (Epstein, 1994). The more flexible oneÕs coping ability the better one is able to adapt to a wide range of situations (Kohlmann, 1993; Nygard, 1982). Perfectionists have been described as having inflexible mindsets, and thinking only in terms of absolute success and absolute failure (Flett, Hewitt, & Martin, 1995; Frost et al., 1990; Hewitt & Flett, 1991). Flett et al. (1994) examined perfectionism and constructive thinking as coping responses. Self-oriented perfectionism (the placing of excessively high standards upon oneÕs self) was correlated with aspects of behavioral coping and was significantly related to the global behavioral coping scale, and other-oriented perfectionism (the placing of excessively high standards on others) was similarly related to coping (Flett et al., 1994). However, socially prescribed perfectionism (the belief that others have excessively high standards for oneÕs self) was negatively related to both emotional and behavioral coping (Flett et al., 1994). Socially prescribed perfectionism is highly dependent on avoidant behavior, the source of many negative behaviors. We hypothesize that negative perfectionism will be negatively correlated with global constructive thinking, along with emotional and behavioral coping. However, we also hypothesize that positive perfectionism will be positively related to global constructive thinking, emotional, and behavioral coping. Rumination impairs problem-solving skills and enhances anxiety or depression (Flett, Hewitt, Blankstein, & Gray, 1998; Lyubomirsky, Tucker, Caldwell, & Berg, 1999; Nolan-Hoeksema, Parker, & Larson, 1994). Rumination, in which thoughts and emotions concerning a stressful situation becomes the focus of oneÕs attention, occurs after the frustration of not reaching a salient goal and is especially likely to happen when it becomes apparent that perfection will not occur (Flett et al., 1998). Ruminative thoughts focus on current aspects of the self and the environment rather than goal-directed modes of action (Flett et al., 1998). Perfectionism is also hypothesized to have these qualities. Frost et al. (1990) partially define perfectionism as having great concern over the possibility of mistakes. Thus perfectionists may ruminate over fears of making mistakes, and failure may be magnified by engaging in obsessive rumination (Flett et al., 1998). Ferrari (1995) found that there was a relationship between perfectionism and obsessions. Ruminators tend to judge their problems as more threatening, more overwhelming, and less controllable than they really are (Lyubomirsky et al., 1999). Because rumination may mediate the effects we are studying, we use the Reponses to Depression Questionnaire (Nolen-Hoeksema & Morrow, 1991), or RSQ, to measure rumination, along with dangerous activities, distraction responses and problemsolving activities in response to a depressed mood. Because negative perfectionists are thought to use maladaptive coping styles, we hypothesize that negative perfectionists will tend to ruminate about their problems and engage in dangerous activities in response to a depressed mood but we


L.R. Burns, B.A. Fedewa / Personality and Individual Differences 38 (2005) 103–113

hypothesize that positive perfectionists will not ruminate about their problems and they will engage in distraction and problem-solving activities in response to a depressed mood. Categorical thinking, as assessed by the CTI, is marked by polarized thinking, a distrust of others, and intolerance (Epstein & Meier, 1989). We believe that negative perfectionists will rate high in categorical thinking, because they tend to be absolute thinkers (Flett et al., 1991, 1995; Frost et al., 1990; Hewitt & Flett, 1991). Positive perfectionists might then be more creative and flexible, relying less on categorical thinking. Mood increases the extent that people rely on stereotypes (Bodenhausen, Kramer, & Susser, 1994; Stroessner, Hamilton, & Mackie, 1992). ‘‘Psychological research lends credence to the idea that anger, conflict, frustration, and anxiety are indeed associated with the tendency to see the world through a stereotypic lens’’ (Bodenhausen et al., 1994). Likewise, ‘‘the state of happiness has been associated repeatedly with the use of more superficial or cursory styles of thinking’’ (Bodenhausen et al., 1994). Bodenhausen et al. (1994), also found that happy subjects showed a greater reliance on stereotypes. These findings could be due to the mood congruency effect that ‘‘involves rendering judgements that are biasing in the direction of oneÕs prevailing mood’’. If positive perfectionists do in fact demonstrate good emotional and behavioral coping then we could expect that they might also be in a better mood. Therefore, we expect to see an increase in the use of positive stereotypes in positive perfectionists. Negative perfectionists, on the other hand, might be distracted by their ruminations and negative affect, inducing the use of more heuristic processing (stereotyping) and that their intolerance and distrust of others will influence the use of negative stereotypes only.

2. Method 2.1. Participants The participants in our sample were 92 male and 129 female introductory psychology students at a Midwestern university receiving grading points for their participation. The mean age of our sample was 20.8 years old (SD ¼ 5:5). The racial/ethnic composition of our sample was reported to be 89.8% Caucasian, 4.5% African American, 1.7% Asian American, 2% Hispanic, 0.6% American Indian, and 1.4% not provided. 2.2. Procedure Distribution of materials was arranged through Introductory Psychology courses. Informed consent was obtained and all participants were offered credit for the completion of all of the following measures. Upon completion all participants were fully debriefed and thanked for their participation. 2.3. Measures The Positive and Negative Perfectionism Scale (Terry-Short et al., 1995), or PNP, assesses perfectionism from a functional or behaviorist perspective. There are two subscales that represent

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the different types of reinforcers a person could experience. Accordingly, Positive Perfectionism (PP) is believed to be a type of perfectionism resulting from linking positive reinforcements with antecedent perfectionistic behaviors. Negative perfectionism (NP) is theorized to be directly linked to negative reinforcements. The PNP consists of 40 Likert scale questions with responses ranging from strongly disagree-1, to strongly agree-5. Scores were obtained by summing the coded set of 18 questions representing positive perfectionism and 22 questions depicting negative perfectionism. The Constructive Thinking Inventory (Epstein & Meier, 1989), or CTI, is a measure of coping ability that contains a global scale and six specific scales, with facets of their own. The Global Constructive Thinking Scale, or GCT, is a bipolar scale containing items from all of the six main scales except the Na€ıve Optimism Scale. ‘‘Good constructive thinkers obtain high scores on emotional and behavioral coping, and low scores on categorical, superstitious, and esoteric thinking’’ (Epstein, 1994). The Emotional Coping Scale, or EC, measures self-acceptance, absence of negative over-generalization, non-sensitivity, and absence of dwelling on adverse past experiences. The Behavioral Coping Scale, or BC, includes facets of positive thinking, action-orientation, and conscientiousness. These two bipolar scales make up the bulk of the test and are two primary sources of positive coping. The Categorical Thinking Scale, or CT, measures polarized thinking, distrust of others, and intolerance. The Personal Superstitious Thinking Scale, or PST, is a homogeneous measurement of the existence of private superstitions; an example being if something good happens, then something bad must occur to balance out the good. The Na€ıve Optimism Scale, or NO, measures unrealistic optimism, stereotypical thinking, and Pollyannaish thinking. The Esoteric Thinking Scale, or ET, measures oneÕs belief in questionable phenomena and formal superstitious thinking. All items are Likert based, with a range from definitely false (1) to definitely true (5). In scoring the scales, sums were calculated for each individual scale, some scoring being reversed. The coefficient alphas are highest among the main scales, the GCT, EC, BC, and ET were all above 0.85; many of the facets are considerably lower due to the smaller number of items (Epstein, 1994). The Responses to Depression Questionnaire (Nolen-Hoeksema & Morrow, 1991), or RDQ, assesses thoughts and behaviors that are reactions to a depressive mood. Specifically, focusing on oneÕs emotional state and thinking repetitively about the causes and consequences of that state. There are four scales derived from the field of items given. The Rumination Scale, or RUM, measures the amount of repetitive thoughts a person has in reaction to a depressive state. The Dangerous Activities Scale, or DAS, measures if a person, when depressed, reacts by doing something dangerous, like drinking alcohol or doing drugs. The Distraction Scale, or DIS, measures the amount of distractive activities that a person does in response to a depressive mood. The Problem Solving Scale, or PROB, measures how much a person actively finds help or does something to promote solving the problem at hand as a response to a depressive mood. The Cronbach alphas for the RUM and DIS were 0.89 and 0.80 (Nolen-Hoeksema & Morrow, 1991). The Beck Depression Inventory (Beck, Ward, Mendelson, Mock, & Erbaugh, 1961), or BDI, assesses the severity of depressive symptomatologies. Scores range from 0 to 63, with higher scores indicating more severe depression. The BDI is one of the most widely used self-report instruments for detecting depressive symptoms; its reliability and validity are reported as good. In the absence of an acceptable measure of positive and negative stereotypes, we developed our own measure of stereotypical thinking. To detour participants from responding in a socially


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desirable fashion, we labeled it the Social Opinion Survey. The scale consisted of 30 Likert style items; 10 items representing positive stereotypes (such as ‘‘hard work is rewarding’’ and ‘‘blondes have more fun’’), 10 items representing negative stereotypes (such as ‘‘Irish people drink a lot’’ and ‘‘Religious people are narrow-minded’’), and 10 items that were neutral. The Cronbach alphas for the positive and negative stereotypes were 0.74 and 0.65, respectively.

3. Results All means, standard deviations, CronbachÕs alphas, and correlations are reported in Table 1. Negative perfectionists were expected to be poor constructive thinkers and our data confirmed this; the GCT scale showed a very strong negative correlation with NP (r ¼ 0:50, p < 0:001). Positive perfectionists were expected to be good constructive thinkers, however, our results did not confirm this hypothesis. It was hypothesized that negative perfectionists would not exhibit good emotional or behavioral coping. Results were consistent with our predictions; NP correlated negatively with both EC (r ¼ 0:58, p < 0:001) and BC (r ¼ 0:20, p < 0:05). It was also expected that positive perfectionists would exhibit good emotional and behavioral coping styles. Results only partially supported our hypothesis; PP correlated positively with BC (r ¼ 0:38, p < 0:001), as predicted.

Table 1 Means, Cronbach Alphas, and Correlations between Positive and Negative Perfectionism, Constructive Thinking, Responses to Depression, BeckÕs Depression Inventory, and Positive and Negative Stereotypes Criterion



– 0.30*** 0.08 )0.18** 0.38*** )0.15* 0.01 )0.02 0.41*** 0.11 0.17** 0.17* 0.01 )0.04 0.27*** 0.02

NP 0.30*** – )0.50*** )0.58*** )0.20** 0.29*** 0.36*** 0.07 0.15* 0.42*** 0.02 )0.08 0.18** 0.21** 0.11 0.17**




0.85 0.86 0.86 0.88 0.76 0.74 0.75 0.85 0.76 0.90 0.74 0.63 0.55 0.91 0.74 0.65

69.5 59.5 99.1 79.8 52.8 17.4 39.6 32.2 50.5 45.3 28.3 10.2 6.5 28.8 26.8 18.4

8.2 12.1 13.7 13.8 6.6 4.7 8.1 9.4 6.9 11.5 5.0 2.7 2.1 7.7 4.3 4.0

Notes: All scales have N ¼ 221; PP ¼ Positive Perfectionism; NP ¼ Negative Perfectionism; GCT ¼ Global Constructive Thinking; EC ¼ Emotional Coping; BC ¼ Behavioral Coping; PST ¼ Personal Superstitious Thinking; CT ¼ Categorical Thinking; ET ¼ Esoteric Thinking; NO ¼ Na€ıve Optimism; RUM ¼ Rumination Scale; DIS ¼ Distraction Scale; PROB ¼ Problem-Solving Scale; DAS ¼ Dangerous Activities; BDI ¼ Beck Depression; PS ¼ Positive Stereotypes; NS ¼ Negative Stereotypes. *p < 0:05, **p < 0:01, ***p < 0:001.

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However, PP showed a negative relationship with EC (r ¼ 0:18, p < 0:05), counter to our expectations. Negative perfectionists were thought to engage in rumination and dangerous activities in response to a depressed mood, and our data supports this: NP and RUM revealed a significant positive correlation (r ¼ 0:42, p < 0:001) and NP and DAS correlated positively (r ¼ 0:18, p < 0:05) as well. It was also hypothesized that positive perfectionists would not tend to be ruminators and would engage in distraction and problem-solving activities in response to a depressed mood: PP and RUM were unrelated and PP correlated positively with DIS (r ¼ 0:17, p < 0:01) and PROB (r ¼ 0:17, p < 0:01), as expected. It was thought that negative perfectionists would rely on categorical thinking, and our data shows that they do; NP and CT correlated positively (r ¼ 0:36, p < 0:001). Positive perfectionists were not thought to rely on categorical thinking and our results show that PP and CT were unrelated. Positive perfectionists were found to be more tolerant however; PP showed a negative relationship (r ¼ 0:24, p < 0:001) to the intolerance facet of the CT scale; NP showed a positive relationship with intolerance (r ¼ 0:08, p ¼ NS), which reflects our predictions. It was hypothesized that negative perfectionists would endorse primarily negative stereotypes and correspondingly, that positive perfectionists would endorse primarily positive stereotypes. Our hypothesis was supported by the data; negative stereotypes were found to correlate positively with NP (r ¼ 0:17, p < 0:01) and positive stereotypes with PP (r ¼ 0:27, p < 0:001).

4. Discussion Building on the theoretical model proposed by Terry-Short et al. (1995); (see also Slade & Owens, 1998), this study examined associations between positive and negative perfectionism and various cognitive processes, including constructive and categorical thinking, emotional, behavioral, and ruminative coping, and positive and negative stereotyping. While previous research on perfectionism has emphasized links with multiple and serious symptomatologies, we draw a further distinction in the construct of perfectionism, one which appears to have both positive and negative aspects. As expected, negative perfectionists are poor constructive thinkers and do not react well to stress. Pessimism and cognitive inflexibility appear to limit them by prompting distress about things that may be out of their immediate control and interfering with their judgment and their ability to focus on the problem at hand (Burns, Dittmann, Nguyen, & Mitchelson, 2000). Negative perfectionists are also poor emotional and behavioral copers, a result that is, for the most part, consistent with previous perfectionism literature (Flett et al., 1989; Flett, Hewitt, Endler, & Tassone, 1995; Frost et al., 1990). Negative perfectionists, tend to avoid their problems rather than actively engaging with them, and, as predicted, rumination was, for negative perfectionists, a main style of coping, along with a tendency to engage in dangerous activities. Negative perfectionists tended to be categorical thinkers, viewing the world in black and white terms, and they were intolerant and distrusting of others. Given our interest in the nature of perfectionistsÕ use of categorical thinking, we developed a measure of positive and negative stereotypes. Our intent was to tease apart, broadly, the nature of the stereotypes used by perfectionists. As Epstein, 1994, suggested, categorical thinking may lie at


L.R. Burns, B.A. Fedewa / Personality and Individual Differences 38 (2005) 103–113

the heart of a coping style that is distinctively post hoc. That is, by responding to the world in a rigid, inflexible fashion, negative perfectionists may seek to reduce ambiguity and gain some sense of control (Burns et al., 2000). Participants who endorsed higher levels of categorical thinking in EpsteinÕs (1994) diary study experienced the continued presence of physical symptoms and negative moods after encountering stressors. This appears similar to the ruminative coping style endorsed by negative perfectionists. In accord with cognitive capacity and mood congruency theories of stereotyping, Lambert, Khan, Lickel, and Fricke (1997) found that sadness can play a central role in stereotypes correction, but this only occurs when the stereotype is perceived as ‘‘inappropriate for the judgment at hand’’. By viewing the world in exaggerated extremes and using a passive coping style, negative perfectionists may be able to avoid the discomfort of shifting to more proactive and engaged coping strategies. Stylistically, by myopically focusing on their reactions to a stressor rather than on the stressor itself, predictive certainty for negative perfectionists, of a sort is thus reinforced. By contrast, our results support our hypothesis that positive perfectionism is adaptive and reinforcing. Positive perfectionism correlated strongly with behavioral coping behaviors––this effect may be similar to the task-oriented aspect of self-oriented perfectionism that was (Frost et al., 1990) correlated with efficacy and conscientiousness. By taking steps to engage their problems actively and to distract themselves in emotionally healthy ways, positive perfectionists appear to be more tolerant and effective, instead of ruminating about their problems or misfortunes. While positive perfectionism did not significantly correlate with constructive thinking, this may not reflect poor constructive thinking. Furthermore, positive perfectionismÕs small negative association with emotional coping suggests that even though positive perfectionism is better than negative perfectionism in many ways, there may still be some detrimental characteristics linked to positive perfectionism. While positive perfectionists actively and conscientiously engage with their problems behaviorally, they may not engage as easily with their problems emotionally. Further research may need to determine if positive perfectionists are able to engage emotionally with appropriate types of problems (Tobin, Holroyd, Reynolds, & Wigal, 1989). Positive perfectionismÕs correlation with positive stereotypes falls in line with much previous research on mood and stereotyping, and it is consistent with both the mood congruency effect and the cognitive capacity hypothesis. For positive perfectionists, this relationship could be explained by the strong positive relationship with the constructive thinkingÕs na€ıve optimism subscale (r ¼ 0:41, p < 0:001), which measures the extent that individuals are ÔunrealisticallyÕ optimistic (Epstein, 1994). Na€ıve optimism seems to be a mixed blessing: ‘‘on the positive side, na€ıve optimists have high spirits, are liked by others, and do well in politics’’ (Epstein, 1994). Alternatively, they may be overly optimistic, likely to think in an excessively positive manner, and fail to perceive a problem with over-generalizing in a positive manner. This could lead them to engage in heuristic processing, congruent with the mood-as-information hypothesis (Lambert et al., 1997). Similarly, these findings could be relevant to the hedonic contingency hypothesis (Wegener, Petty, & Smith, 1995), which assumes that people in a good mood will focus on tasks and information that help preserve their mood. Negative perfectionism showed a strong positive correlation with personal superstitious thinking (r ¼ 0:29, p < 0:001), a scale that indicates the endorsement of private superstitions, not traditional ones as measured by the esoteric thinking subscale (Epstein & Meier, 1989). Individuals endorse personal superstitions in order to defend themselves against threat, rather than for

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fulfillment (Epstein, 1994). ‘‘Personal superstitious thinking serves to reduce the sting of disappointment by dampening enthusiasm and hope’’ (Epstein, 1994). It is not very surprising that negative perfectionists show this relationship, given that ‘‘Personal Superstitious Thinking is positively correlated with measures of pessimism, helplessness, and depression’’ (Epstein, 1994), as well as with measures of drug and alcohol abuse and everyday psychosomatic ailments (Epstein, 1994). Positive perfectionism showed a slight negative correlation with personal superstitious thinking (r ¼ 0:15, p < 0:05), which further demonstrates that there are significant differences between positive and negative perfectionism. This study is correlational, and due to the limitations of a college sample, generalization and interpretation is limited until further research confirms our findings. We realize that alphas for a few scales are somewhat lower than ideal, but our results suggest further research is warranted regarding positive and negative perfectionism. More reliable measures of problem-solving and of distractive and dangerous activities, as well as measures of positive and negative stereotypes may be useful for further exploration of how positive and negative perfectionists react differently to stress and use cognitive heuristics to simplify their encounters. Positive and negative perfectionists do think and react differently in reaction to everyday stress, and these reactions have contrasting consequences. These differences have distinct implications for further research and for behavioral and cognitive treatments. The positive and negative perfectionism scale revealed substantial differences, indicating that the distinction between positive and negative perfectionism is both theoretically and practically meaningful. Negative perfectionists revealed significant maladjustment in their coping styles and thinking patterns. Positive perfectionists coped well with their problems, though they may not have always reacted optimally to them emotionally, they were likely to take steps forward in relieving their troubles. Our findings show that positive perfectionists are optimistic, conscientious, and happier in general.

Acknowledgements This paper was funded and supported in part by a summer scholarship research grant at GVSU. We would also like to thank the following for their assistance with this project: Steven Wilk, Richard Gould, and Felicia Hunter. Additionally we would like to express our gratitude for constructive comments from Drs. R.A. Henderson and M.W. Eysenck on an earlier draft.

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