British Journal of Psychology

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British Journal of Psychology - Early View Articles, Pages ${blockparams.parentJournalIssue.pageRange}

Trait interpersonal vulnerability attenuates beneficial effects of constructive criticism on failure responses

The extant literature on interpersonal criticism suggests that relative to destructive criticism, constructive criticism significantly minimizes the injurious psychological aftermath people experience after failure. However, we propose the possibility that for some people, these psychological benefits of constructive criticism are less apparent. Specifically, we hypothesized that for people high in trait interpersonal vulnerability, a construct marked by maladaptive cognitive‐emotional responses in interpersonal contexts and/or by dysfunctional relational concerns, effects of constructive (vs. destructive) criticism on reduced maladaptive appraisals will diminish, and this diminution of reduced maladaptive appraisals will predict downstream effects on worsened post‐failure mood. An experiment had a college sample (N = 349) complete four instruments represented under an interpersonal vulnerability construct (IVC). Next, participants imagined failing in various domains and receiving subsequent feedback from emotionally important others. Feedback type was manipulated to typify either destructive criticism or constructive criticism. Finally, participants provided ratings of maladaptive appraisals and post‐failure mood. Latent variable path modelling supported hypotheses. Effects of constructive (vs. destructive) criticism on reduced maladaptive appraisals (namely, shame proneness) diminished as IVC increased, which predicted worsened post‐failure mood. Findings have implications for multidisciplinary theoretical perspectives relevant to interpersonal vulnerability and offer practical considerations for clinicians working with vulnerable clients.

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