Pavlov's Couch

A Psychology Student's Mental Experience

Archive for the tag “confidence”

Expecting to Fail, Expecting to Succeed

Exams are starting in a couple of days, and I have found myself saying over and over again “I’m going to fail. I’m sure I’m going to fail.” It’s hard not to feel that way right now, with the pressure that is on from five exams, all of which count for 100% of the mark of their respective modules (the exams alone decide if we pass or fail each module, which in turn decides if we pass or fail the year). And of course I have high demands on myself – wanting to get a First class degree. But I am aware that sitting here telling myself I am going to fail is a very bad thing…it could even be a self-fulfilling prophecy…

Expectation is a powerful thing, both consciously and unconsciously. An experiment by Aronson (1962) looked at expectations of participants by setting some up to expect to do poorly on a task, and some to expect to do well. The participants then completed the task and half from each group were told that they did well, and half that they didn’t do well, thus confirming or denying their expectations. A “fault” then occured (actually part of the experiment) which mean the participants had to repeat the task but were allowed to change their answers if they desired. What is most interesting is that the participants in the low expectation group who actually performed well conterintuitively changed a lot of their choices. These participants expressed surprise when they were shown that they changed so many of their choices, and blamed this behaviour either on “faulty memory” or “shifting criteria of judgment.”

There has been quite a bit of research into the power of expectation on performance, even going so far as to show improved muscle efficiency in runners in a high expectation group (Stoate et al. 2012) and motor performance in high pressure tasks (McKay, 2012)! The more certain your expectancy, the more persistent you will be in your task and the better your performance (Dickhäuser et al., 2011) And you don’t even need to believe that you will ace your task; moderate and high expectations have equal benefit (Marshall & Brown, 2004).

So with all that in mind I will pass on this lovely poem that my sister sent to me. I believe this is by C. W. Longenecker.

The Victor

If you think you’ll lose, you’ve lost,
For out in the world you’ll find
Success begins with a person’s will;
It’s all in the state of mind.

For many a game is lost
Before even a step is run
And many a coward fails
Before his work is begun.

Think big and your deed will grow;
Think small and you will fall behind.
Think that you can and you will;
It’s all in the state of mind and belief.

If you think that you are out-classed, you are;
You’ve got to think high to rise.
You’ve got to be sure of yourself
Before you can win the prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the strongest or fastest man
But sooner or later the person who wins
Is the person who thinks he or she can.



You can do it.

I can do it.

We can all do it.

Good luck to all students who are sitting or preparing to sit exams at the moment!






Aronson, E., 1962. Performance expectancy as a determinant of actual performance. The Journal of Abnormal and Social, 65(3), pp.178-182.

Dickhäuser, O., Reinhard, M.-A. & Englert, C., 2011. “Of course I will …”: The combined effect of certainty and level of expectancies on persistence and performance. Social Psychology of Education, 14(4), pp.519-528.

Marshall, M. a. & Brown, J.D., 2004. Expectations and Realizations: The Role of Expectancies in Achievement Settings. Motivation and Emotion, 28(4), pp.347-361.

McKay, B., Lewthwaite, R. & Wulf, G., 2012. Enhanced expectancies improve performance under pressure. Frontiers in psychology, 3(January), p.8.

Stoate, I., Wulf, G. & Lewthwaite, R., 2012, Enhanced expectancies improve movement efficiency in runners Enhanced expectancies improve movement efficiency in runners., pp.37-41.

We Are The Champions!

I seem to have become a different person. From the anxiety and complete lack of confidence I have had for some time (very much reinforced by my experiences in my previous job), I have made a complete turn around. This week I have been confident and outgoing, spoken to and made friends with lots of people.

Not only that, but other things have changed too. All my life I have been disorganised. So much so that every single teacher, and every boss, has brought it up as an issue. My general organisation and time management skills have always been laughably bad. But this week I was specifically complimented on my organisation skills, both in my own organisation and my ability to organise our group! It is amazing what happens when you have some real passion for something 🙂

This week has been great, and incredibly useful. I now feel far more comfortable with the start of freshers fayre next week thanks to already being familiar with the campus, already knowing some students, and having already got things like my network login sorted. On top of this the lectures on study skills and so on that I have had this have really boosted my confidence, and I now know where to get plenty more help. Not to mention knowing where all the other support such as counselling, advice, and so on are. If you are a new student and your university runs a head start programme, I highly recommend it!

I have been so enthused by this week that I have even signed up to be a student ambassador, doing things like helping out with weeks like this one (our student ambassadors were fantastic!). As well as being paid work that looks to be very rewarding, it will also help me improve my presentation skills, and look great on my CV (alongside Student Rep for Student Member Group of BPS which I have also applied for!).

Talking about presentations, our group project went fantastic! We finished bang on time, everyone presented their part brilliantly, and the video interview we put in seemed to impress everyone. We got lots of compliments all round 🙂

I feel great!

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: