Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Kristin Sommer

Committee Members

Harold Goldstein

Yochi Cohen-Charash Anna Gödöllei Wei Wang

Anna Gödöllei Wei Wang

Wei Wang

Subject Categories

Industrial and Organizational Psychology


Impostor phenomenon, self-worth protection, self-regulation, task characteristics


Impostor phenomenon refers to an experience of hidden feelings of intellectual fraudulence held in achievement domains. While research on the subject is limited, impostors are reasoned to use dysfunctional performance strategies marked by overworking and withdrawing (Clance & Imes, 1988). In the present studies, the relationship between impostorism and the use of overworking strategies (i.e., overpreparation, unnecessary rework) and withdrawing strategies (i.e., procrastination, self-handicapping) were explored among a sample of college students with work experience. These studies were designed to test whether task characteristics including autonomy (Study 1; N = 128) and the anticipation of feedback (Study 2; N = 129) moderate the relationship between impostorism and strategy use. I found mixed support for predictions that those higher in impostorism would be more likely to use dysfunctional strategies and that such effects would be exacerbated under conditions of high autonomy and feedback anticipation. In Study 1, impostorism was related to greater use of overpreparation (overworking) across both low and high autonomy conditions. Impostorism was also related to greater use of self-handicapping (withdrawing), but only when autonomy was high. In Study 2, impostorism was related to greater use of procrastination (withdrawing) and unnecessary rework (overworking), but only when feedback was anticipated. Collectively, the findings suggest that high autonomy and anticipation of feedback may be threatening to impostors who, in turn, engage in greater use of dysfunctional yet self-protective work strategies. By showing that impostors tend to use certain dysfunctional strategies when autonomy is high and feedback is anticipated, the present research provides insight into how impostorism – increasingly acknowledged as a phenomenon at work – interacts with common characteristics of work tasks to influence behavior in suboptimal ways. These results can inform recommendations on how to frame tasks in ways that mitigate impostors’ use of dysfunctional, self-protective work strategies.