When it comes to "buying" excuses, women aren't exactly in the market, according to a new study that explores how men and women perceive self-deception. Men and women alike have long claimed everything from sleep deprivation to debilitating hangovers in an attempt to excuse poor academic, athletic or job performance. Creating a rationale for our shortcomings, or self-handicapping, sidesteps the issue of innate ability--or lack thereof. "Self-handicapping seems to buffer people's self-esteem when they fail," explains study co-author Edward Hirt, Ph.D., a social psychologist at Indiana University Bloomington. "It's also an impression-management strategy, a way to make other people perceive them as competent."
The researchers posed 888 subjects with a scenario in which a student named Chris (the gender was randomly assigned) forgoes studying for an important exam to go to the movies. The marks Chris received on the test varied, as did his/her reasons for slacking off. In one instance Chris' self-sabotage is overt: s/he invites a friend to the movies. In the other, Chris' indiscretion is subtle: a friend invites Chris to the movies. Afterward participants were surveyed on their perceptions of Chris.