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The Impostor Phenomenon: Self-Perceptions, Reflected Appraisals, and Interpersonal...

M. R. Leary, K. M. Patton, A. E. Orlando, W. W. Fun


The Impostor Phenomenon: Self-Perceptions, Reflected Appraisals, and Interpersonal Strategies


Three studies tested theoretical assumptions regarding the impostor phenomenon. In Study 1, participants completed measures of impostorism, rated themselves, and indicated how they thought other people regarded them. Contrary to standard conceptualizations of impostorism, high impostors were characterized by a combination of low self‐appraisals and low reflected appraisals. Study 2 was an experiment designed to determine whether the behaviors associated with the impostor phenomenon are interpersonal strategies. Participants were told that they were expected to perform either better or worse than they had previously predicted on an upcoming test, then expressed their reactions anonymously or publicly. High impostors expressed lower performance expectations than low impostors only when their responses were public. When expectations for performance were low, participants high in impostorism responded differently under public than private conditions. Study 3 examined the possibility that high scores on measures of impostorism may reflect two types of impostors—true impostors (who believe that others perceive them too positively) and strategic impostors (who only claim that they are not as good as other people think). The results did not support this distinction; however, evidence for the strategic nature of impostorism was again obtained. Although people may experience true feelings of impostorism, these studies suggest that the characteristics attributed to so‐called impostors are partly interpersonal, self‐presentational behaviors designed to minimize the implications of poor performance.

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Journal of Personality. – 2000. – Vol. 68, № 4. – P. 725–756.

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