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A Clinical Investigation of Motivation to Change Standards and Cognitions about Failure in Perfectionism

  • Sarah J. Egan (a1), Jan P. Piek (a1), Murray J. Dyck (a2), Clare S. Rees (a1) and Martin S. Hagger (a1)...


Background: Clinical perfectionism is a transdiagnostic process that has been found to maintain eating disorders, anxiety disorders and depression. Cognitive behavioural models explaining the maintenance of clinical perfectionism emphasize the contribution of dichotomous thinking and resetting standards higher following both success and failure in meeting their goals. There has been a paucity of research examining the predictions of the models and motivation to change perfectionism. Motivation to change is important as individuals with clinical perfectionism often report many perceived benefits of their perfectionism; they are, therefore, likely to be ambivalent regarding changing perfectionism. Aims: The aim was to compare qualitative responses regarding questions about motivation to change standards and cognitions regarding failure to meet a personal standard in two contrasting groups with high and low negative perfectionism. Negative perfectionism refers to concern over not meeting personal standards. Method: A clinical group with a range of axis 1 diagnoses who were elevated on negative perfectionism were compared to a group of athletes who were low on negative perfectionism. Results: Results indicated that the clinical group perceived many negative consequences of their perfectionism. They also, however, reported numerous benefits and the majority stated that they would prefer not to change their perfectionism. The clinical group also reported dichotomous thinking and preferring to either keep standards the same or reset standards higher following failure, whilst the athlete group reported they would keep standards the same or set them lower. Conclusions: The findings support predictions of the cognitive behavioural model of clinical perfectionism.


Corresponding author

Reprint requests to Sarah Egan, School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia. E-mail:


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A Clinical Investigation of Motivation to Change Standards and Cognitions about Failure in Perfectionism

  • Sarah J. Egan (a1), Jan P. Piek (a1), Murray J. Dyck (a2), Clare S. Rees (a1) and Martin S. Hagger (a1)...
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