Self-conﬁdence and performance: A little self-doubt helps
, Sally Akehurst
, Lew Hardy
, Stuart Beattie
Bangor University, United Kingdom
Aberystwyth University, United Kingdom
Received 12 February 2010
Received in revised form
30 April 2010
Accepted 28 May 2010
Available online 4 June 2010
Objectives: To test the hypothesis that a decrease in conﬁdence on a well-learned task will increase effort
Design: A 2 (group: control, experimental) Â 2 (trial: practice, competition) mixed-model with repeated
measures on the second factor.
Method: Expert skippers’ (n ¼ 28) self-conﬁdence was reduced via a combination of task (i.e., change of
rope) and competitive demands. Performance was the number of skips in a 1-min period. On-task effort
was measured via the verbal reaction time to an auditory probe.
Results: The group Â trial interaction (F (1, 26) ¼ 6.73, p < .05,
¼ .21) supported the hypothesis: Post-
hoc tests revealed a signiﬁcant decrease in self-conﬁdence and a signiﬁcant improvement in perfor-
mance from practice to competition for the experimental group only. No signiﬁcant effort effects were
Conclusions: Some self-doubt can beneﬁt performance, which calls into question the widely accepted
positive linear relationship between self-conﬁdence and performance. As effort did not increase with
decreased conﬁdence, the precise mechanisms via which self-conﬁdence will lead to an increase or
a decrease in performance remain to be elucidated.
Ó 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
The relationship between stress, anxiety, self-conﬁdence and
performance continues to attract much research attention (e.g.,
Beilock & Gray, 2007; Woodman & Hardy, 2001). Among the least
disputed of these relationships is the positive association between
self-conﬁdence and performance. The support for this positive
relationship is strong both theoretically and empirically (e.g.,
Bandura, 1997; Bandura & Locke, 2003; Martens, Vealey, & Burton,
1990; Vealey,1986, 2001; Woodman & Hardy, 2003). Meta-analyses
of the self-conﬁdence e performance relationship show that the
mean effect size is greater than that revealed for cognitive anxiety
and the vast majority of studies report a positive relationship
between self-conﬁdence and performance (e.g., 89% of the exact
effect sizes reported in Woodman & Hardy, 2003 were positive).
Bandura’s(1997)theory of self-efﬁcacy, which is rooted in social
cognitive theory, predicts a positive relationship between self-
efﬁcacy and performance by drawing on four key sources of self-
efﬁcacy that are thought to impact performance via thoughts and
behaviors. Furthermore, in their development of multidimensional
anxiety theory, Martens et al. (1990) theorized a positive linear
relationship between self-conﬁdence and performance. Similarly,
Vealey’s (1986, 2001) sport conﬁdence model posits a positive
relationship between conﬁdence and performance. Although the
majority of research has found support for this hypothesized
positive association, there exist some notable exceptions.
In their study of pistol shooters, Gould, Petlichkoff, Simons, and
Vevera (1987) revealed a negative relationship between self-
conﬁdence and shooting performance. Similarly, Hardy, Woodman,
and Carrington (2004) found that high self-conﬁdence was asso-
ciated with depressed golf performance scores (see also Woodman
& Hardy, 2005). One explanation for such ﬁndings is that high
conﬁdence can lead to risk-taking (Campbell, Goodie, & Foster,
2004) and/or complacency (Jones, Swain, & Hardy, 1993), which
in turn may hinder performance. Other models, such as Hardy’s
(1996) butterﬂy catastrophe model, also suggest that the relation-
ship between self-conﬁdence and performance is not as simplistic
as is commonly accepted.
A further line of research utilizing a within-person approach has
revealed negative self-conﬁdence effects. For example, in an
Vancouver, Thompson, and Williams (2001) found
over time high self-efﬁcacy led participants to commit too
Correspondence to: Tim Woodman, Institute for the Psychology of Elite
Performance, Bangor University, Gwynedd LL57 2DG, UK. Tel.: þ44 (0) 1248
382756; fax: þ44 (0) 1248 371053.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (T. Woodman).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Psychology of Sport and Exercise
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/psychsport
1469-0292/$ e see front matter Ó 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Psychology of Sport and Exercise 11 (2010) 467e470