What is it about?

Across 67 studies and 21,272 participants with a mean age of 19 years, high standards and pursuit of excellence was associated with better academic performance and helpful behaviours that support this performance e.g., self-regulated learning strategies, and academic engagement, self-efficacy and satisfaction. Perfectionistic standards were also associated with better performance but more unhelpful behaviours e.g., procrastination and academic stress and burnout. Harsh, self-critical, evaluative concerns were associated with worse performance and unhelpful academic behaviours.

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Why is it important?

Perfectionism is increasing in youth and is associated with higher levels of anxiety, depression and disordered eating. Understanding that perfectionistic standards and self-criticism damage helpful academic behaviours can encourage our young people to pursue high standards devoid of the inflexibility, rigidity and self-criticism that attends perfectionism, and thus allow them to be more successful in their learning.


The results of this paper were very exciting for us, as we have long supported the idea that perfectionism is damaging but that aspiring to high standards is healthy and to be encouraged.

Tracey Wade
Flinders University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Does perfectionism or pursuit of excellence contribute to successful learning? A meta-analytic review., Psychological Assessment, October 2020, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/pas0000942.
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