The Relationship Between Self-Theories, Emotion, and Coping

Document Type


Publication Date



Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Pamela Bacon, Psychology


Self-theories of intelligence have been identified by social psychologists as critical to the study of motivation, as entitists and incrementalists have been found to cope differently in reaction to failure or negative events. Entitists tend to exhibit helplessness-oriented patterns of coping, whereas incrementalists tend to exhibit mastery-oriented patterns of coping. Social psychologists have also demonstrated the utility of positive emotions to cope with negative events through the Broaden-and-Build theory of positive emotion. The current study examines the degree to which individuals' self-theories moderate the relationship between positive emotions and the ability to cope with negative events. After imagining an academic failure, 141 participants were induced with either a positive or neutral mood and then completed a variety of coping questionnaires. Participants' self-theories did relate to coping strategies. However, methodological flaws made it impossible to test a moderating relationship between self-theories, emotion, and coping. These results confirm research demonstrating that learning goals positively associate with adaptive coping strategies in response to an academic failure and generalized measures of coping. These results also carry implications for future researchers interested in studying the consequences of self-theories among college-aged populations.