Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Thomas Rodebaugh


Perfectionism is a trait with multiple dimensions, which vary in terms of associated costs and benefits. Maladaptive perfectionism is related to neuroticism and involves self-criticism and perceptions of difficulty meeting high standards. In contrast, adaptive perfectionism is associated with conscientiousness and can be considered the healthy pursuit of high standards with minimal distress. Assessment of perfectionism has primarily been limited to self-report, so the present study investigated relationships between perfectionism dimensions and responses to a computerized search task in a sample of 133 undergraduates. In addition, friends and parents were asked to rate several traits of the participant using an online survey. The cost of errors for the task was manipulated, and maladaptive perfectionism subscales were hypothesized to predict worse performance and more task-related distress. Although neither maladaptive perfectionism nor adaptive perfectionism predicted task performance as hypothesized, maladaptive perfectionism predicted worse reactions: e.g., activated negative affect, frustration) to the task; however, incremental validity was limited. Unexpectedly, post-hoc analyses revealed that adaptive perfectionism predicted more frustration and less satisfaction for the task above and beyond conscientiousness. Informant ratings of participant personality traits demonstrated agreement, even for less observable measures, and achieved incremental validity beyond similar participant ratings in a few instances: e.g., task confidence). Informant ratings of personality seem to be useful supplements to self-report perfectionism measures. In addition, a brief task may not be suitable for observing the distinctive behavioral patterns of perfectionists. Although perfectionism dimensions overlap considerably with higher order personality constructs, they can provide unique information about meaningful outcomes. Recommendations for future research and implications are discussed.


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