When does feedback about success at school hurt? The role of causal attributions

Shlomo Hareli, Ursula Hess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present research provides evidence that attribution theory can serve as an explanatory framework not only to explain achievers' reactions to their achievement based on their self generated understandings of what brought these achievements about but also when such information is provided by others. Thus, when we succeed at school, others may comment on the likely reasons for this success. The present research addressed the question what it is that makes certain types of feedback on the reasons for success at school hurtful. The results of two studies conducted in the context of a school setting demonstrated that the causal structure implied by an explanation for success explains why some explanations are perceived as hurtful and elicit anger, shame, and guilt rather than pleasure or pride. Interestingly, the perceived validity of the explanation is of relatively less importance for the elicitation of hurt feelings and anger than the content of the explanation. Overall, these results provide further evidence for the importance of attributional information for social emotions in educational settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-272
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Psychology of Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2008


  • Anger, shame, guilt
  • Attribution theory
  • Hurt feeling
  • Peer feedback
  • Success at school

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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