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The purpose of the research reported in this article was to test two hypotheses about how musicians evaluate their musical performances. The first hypothesis was that musicians’ self-evaluations would be more influenced by their expectations and their past performances than by comparisons to the performances of other musicians. The second hypothesis was that musicians would exhibit an ‘adaptive evaluational style’ by showing more sensitivity to positive feedback than to negative feedback. We used the Experimental Evaluational Styles Questionnaire (Goolsby & Chaplin, 1988) in a sample of 78 music performance students (43 men and 35 women) to test these hypotheses, and both were supported. These results represent one of the first examples where the dominant theory of evaluation in psychology, Festinger’s (1954) social comparison theory, did not have the greatest influence on people’s performance evaluations. However, we did find individual differences in the influence of the different evaluative standards. Understanding the causes and consequences of these individual differences should be a fruitful target for future research.


This article was originally published in Psychology of Music, available at DOI: 10.1177/0305735614568883

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