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Journal of Personality
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Applying the Big Five
Personality Factors to the
Impostor Phenomenon
Naijean S. Bernard , Stephen J. Dollinger & Nerella
V. Ramaniah
Published online: 10 Jun 2010.
To cite this article: Naijean S. Bernard , Stephen J. Dollinger & Nerella V. Ramaniah
(2002) Applying the Big Five Personality Factors to the Impostor Phenomenon, Journal
of Personality Assessment, 78:2, 321-333, DOI: 10.1207/S15327752JPA7802_07
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/S15327752JPA7802_07
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Applying the Big Five Personality
Factors to the Impostor Phenomenon
Naijean S. Bernard, Stephen J. Dollinger,
and Nerella V. Ramaniah
Department of Psychology
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
The purpose of this study was to relate the impostor phenomenon (IP) to the Five-fac-
tor model of personality. A sample of 190 college students (79 men, 111 women)
completed the Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale (Clance, 1985), the Perceived
Fradulence Scale (Kolligian & Sternberg, 1991), and the NEOPersonality Inven-
toryRevised (Costa &McCrae, 1992). Results of correlational and regression analy-
ses support the predicted relations of imposter measures with high Neuroticism and
low Conscientiousness. Facet-level correlations showed that depression and anxiety
were particularly important characteristics of those with imposter feelings as well as
low self-discipline and perceived competence. Implications for treatment and future
research on the IP are discussed.
College has often been seen as a rite of passage for young people as they establish
an identity, develop into mature adults, and begin to construct a life narrative.
Whether they attend a prestigious or an open-admissions school, by the very nature
of college, most students will encounter new roles and challenges. Some will have
experienced past success and indicators of promise as a mixed blessing because
they may feel that they are masquerading as intellectual frauds or as impostors. Ex-
istence of these impostor feelings was first identified by Clance and Imes (1978),
who labeled it the impostor phenomenon (IP).
The IP has been defined as an internal experience of intellectual phoniness in
high achievers who are unable to internalize their successful experiences. Individ-
uals who suffer from imposter feelings attribute their success to luck or interper-
sonal skills, and they display generalized anxiety, lack of self-confidence,
depression, and frustration due to their inability to meet their own standards of
JOURNAL OF PERSONALITY ASSESSMENT, 78(2), 321333
Copyright 2002, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
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achievement (Clance & Imes, 1978). Furthermore, despite objective, external evi-
dence that they are successful and talented, they nevertheless live with a constant
dread of being exposed as incompetent, particularly as they enter new roles
(Clance, 1985; Clance & Imes, 1978).
Although the IP has considerable relevance to college student adjustment, it is
by no means limited to young adults, as Clances initial clinical work focused on
successful professional and academic women (Clance & Imes, 1978). The con-
struct has generated substantial research interest in the last 2 decades. This may be
attributable to its compelling face validity in that, on first learning about IP, many
college students and professionals say that they too have suffered with such feel-
ings (Topping & Kimmel, 1985).
Previous research has focused on four major areas. One research focus has been
instrument development (e.g., Chrisman, Pieper, Clance, Holland, & Glickauf-
Hughes, 1995; Holmes, Kertay, Adamson, Holland, & Clance, 1993; Kolligian &
Sternberg, 1991). Asecond area of research has explored the relation of IP to other
constructs (e.g., Fried-Buchalter, 1992; King & Cooley, 1995). In this study, we
contribute to this second area but by including both the Clance Impostor Phenome-
non Scale (CIPS; Clance, 1985) and Perceived Fraudulence Scale (PFS; Kolligian
&Sternberg, 1991), we contribute also to the first area of research. Another area of
IP research, of less immediate concern, focuses on the processes by which impost-
ers and nonimposters deal with real or imagined academic outcomes (e.g., emo-
tions and attributions; Cozzarelli & Major, 1990; Thompson, Davis, & Davidson,
1998). Finally, a number of studies have explored the IP concept in relation to such
special populations as university faculty (Topping & Kimmel, 1985), various cli-
ent groups (e.g., Robinson & Goodpaster, 1991; Striegel-Moore, Silberstein, &
Rodin, 1993), and individuals in or preparing for selected professions such as med-
icine or accounting (e.g., Byrnes & Lester, 1995; Henning, Ey, & Shaw, 1998).
However, several studies have had more than one focus, and most have explored
gender differences.
Among the three instruments developed to measure IP, Harveys (1981) scale
was used in early studies but was found to have unacceptably low internal consis-
tency in some samples. The CIPS (Clance, 1985) and PFS (Kolligian &Sternberg,
1991) have good internal consistencies, but evidence for construct validity is
mixed. Depression and low self-esteem often have been reported to be substantial
correlates of IP (Chrisman et al., 1995; Cozzarelli & Major, 1990; Kolligian &
Sternberg, 1991; Thompson et al., 1998), yielding correlations ranging from .5
through .7. Indeed, one process study (Cozzarelli & Major, 1990) found that dif-
ferences between imposters and nonimposters could be accounted for by initial
self-esteem. The authors of the CIPS and PFS argued that multiple measures of
self-esteem(or depression) correlate with each other at a significantly higher mag-
nitude than they do with IP measures, indicating good discriminant validity
(Chrisman et al., 1995; Kolligian & Sternberg, 1991). However, Fried-Buchalter
322 BERNARD, DOLLINGER, RAMANIAH
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(1992) suggested that the IP and the construct of fear of failure may both be par-
simoniously referred to as lack of self-confidence. Clearly, additional research is
needed on the construct validity of IP measures.
The repeated finding of correlations between IP and self-esteem or depression
suggests that the broad personality factor of Neuroticismshould be the personality
domain in which IP resides. Consistent with this logic, Kolligian and Sternberg
(1991) conceptualized IPor perceived fraudulence, as they termed itas in-
volving depression, anxiety, and self-consciousness, which clearly implicate
Neuroticism; indeed they define three of the six NEOPersonality InventoryRe-
vised (NEOPIR; Costa & McCrae, 1992) Neuroticism facet scales. Empirically
consistent with this conceptualization is a study by Chae, Piedmont, Estadt, and
Wicks (1995) who investigated IP from the perspective of the Five-factor model
(FFM). With a Korean sample, they reported a moderately strong positive correla-
tion between IP and the NEOPIR Neuroticism scale, including the depression,
anxiety, and self-consciousness facets. In another study (Lester & Moderski,
1995), IP also was found to be related to Neuroticism in the Eysencks PEN
model (Eysenck, 1991).
Chae et al. (1995) also found negative correlations of IP with the NEOPIR
Conscientiousness scale, indicating that imposters have low levels of Conscien-
tiousness. This finding is interesting because clinical and theoretical writings sug-
gest that imposters may either procrastinate or put forth inordinate amounts of
effort in achievement situations (Clance, 1985) and that therapy should decrease
their compulsive work habits (Clance & Imes, 1978, p. 245). Because the families
of some imposters expect the person to be a high achiever in accord with the idea
of perfection with ease (Clance & Imes, 1978, p. 243), they may convey mis-
leading expectations that little effort is needed. Past research on study habits have
yielded inconsistent results. For example, King and Cooley (1995) reported a sig-
nificant positive correlation between the CIPS and hours per week spent outside
class on academic work. However, Cozzarelli and Major (1990), using the CIPS,
found that imposters were marginally more likely to report not having studied at all
for a psychology midterm exam. Whereas procrastination and absence of study
suggest low levels of Conscientiousness, inordinate achievement striving and
compulsiveness suggest high Conscientiousness. Thus, theoretical writings sug-
gest the relevance of this factor but also imply possible inconsistencies across
individuals.
Regarding the other major dimensions of the FFM, Chae et al. (1995) found that
Extraversion and Agreeableness had significant but lownegative correlations with
the CIPS. Because no other findings in the literature hint at such a pattern, these
findings clearly need replication.
In sum, very little research has attempted to integrate the IP into a larger person-
ality framework such as the FFM of personality. Use of this comprehensive model
of personality would help clarify to what extent IP is tapping different major per-
IMPOSTOR PHENOMENON 323
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sonality factors and organize past findings on this phenomenon. In this study, we
worked fromthe widely used Costa and McCrae (1992) version of the FFM, which
consists of Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness,
and Conscientiousness as the major factors of personality. The Chae et al. (1995)
study, which was similar to our research, used a Korean adult all-Catholic sample
(many of whomwere in ministerial roles) and included just the CIPS measure. Our
study used an American college student sample and the two best measures of the
IP, namely the CIPS and PFS.
We hypothesized that high Neuroticismon the NEOPIRwould be associated
with high scores on the CIPS and PFS. Also because of the conflicting theoretical
and empirical expectations based on previous research, we were interested in the
relation of Conscientiousness to IP. The other Big Five factors of Extraversion,
Openness, and Agreeableness were not expected to be related to the IP. Moreover,
given the definition of IP (Clance &Imes, 1978; Kolligian &Sternberg, 1991), we
were particularly interested in 4 of the 30 NEOPIR facet scales in relation to the
IP: anxiety, depression, self-consciousness, and competence.
METHOD
Participants
Participants of this study were 190 undergraduate psychology students (79 men and
111 women) at a large midwestern university who received partial course credit for
participating. The participants consisted of 63% European Americans, 20% Afri-
can Americans, 5% Asian or Asian Americans, 4% Latinos, 4% of mixed parent-
age, and 4% who described themselves as Other. Also, 46% of the participants
reported that their father was a college graduate, and 41%reported that their mother
was a college graduate. Mean age of participants was 19.7 years with a standard de-
viation of 3.4.
Procedure and Instruments
Participants were informed that the study was voluntary. They first completed a de-
mographic background formincluding questions about current grade point average
(GPA), hours of study per week, and parental education. Then they completed the
following two IP scales along with the NEOPIR. Participants reported their an-
swers anonymously.
CIPS. Clance (1985) developed this 20-item questionnaire that contains
items that identify (a) fear of evaluation, (b) fear of not being able to repeat success,
and (c) fear of being less capable than others. Items are rated on a 5-point Likert
scale ranging from1 (not at all true) to 5 (very true). Social desirability effects have
324 BERNARD, DOLLINGER, RAMANIAH
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been reduced through consistent wording of items that acknowledge the success of
the individual (Clance, 1985). The CIPS has been shown to be reliable (coefficient
=.96) and to distinguish between impostors and nonimpostors fromboth clinical
and nonclinical populations (Holmes et al., 1993). It has also been found to corre-
late with other imposter scales (e.g., Chrisman et al., 1995; Holmes et al., 1993).
Coefficient alpha was .90 in this sample.
PFS. Developed by Kolligian and Sternberg (1991), the content of this 51-
item scale contains a broad range of phenomenological tendencies associated with
the imposter experience. The response format is a 7-point scale ranging from 1
(strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). The authors reported an alpha coefficient
of .94; the alpha coefficient was .89 in this study. This scale correlates substantially
with other measures of IP (Chrisman et al., 1995; Kolligian &Sternberg, 1991) in-
cluding ones using interview and thought-sampling methodologies.
NEOPIR. Developed by Costa and McCrae (1992), this inventory con-
tains 240 items presented in a 5-point scale format ranging from 0 (strongly dis-
agree) to 4 (strongly agree). Item content gives a description of the normal adult
personality. Domains that are assessed include Neuroticism, Extraversion, Open-
ness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. Each domain includes
six facet scales. NEOPIRdomain scales have coefficient alpha reliabilities rang-
ing from .86 to .95 (reported in the manual) and .87 to .91 (in this study).
RESULTS
Preliminary Findings
Table 1 presents means, standard deviations, and alpha coefficients for the two IP
scales and the five NEOPIRdomain scales. These descriptive statistics are com-
parable to those reported in the literature. The two impostor scales had a correlation
of .68 for the total sample, .69 for male participants, and .68 for female participants,
all p < .001, supporting their construct validity.
Although much of the literature has focused on the relevance of the IP for
women, point biserial (pb) correlations between gender and the IP measures were
not significant in the our sample (r
pb
= .04 for the CIPS and .07 for the PFS).
Thus, men and women were pooled for further analyses.
Main Analyses
Based on the existing literature, Neuroticism was expected to make the greatest
contribution to understanding the nature of IP because the largest correlates in past
IMPOSTOR PHENOMENON 325
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researchdepression and self-esteemconceptually involve this domain. Table 2
shows zero order correlations supporting these hypotheses. For both men and
women, highNeuroticismandlowConscientiousness characterize highIPscorers.
For the multivariate analyses, we combined the CIPS and PFS into a single
measure. Because the CIPS and PFS were substantially correlated and had gener-
ally consistent correlations with the NEOPIR, we reduced the number of analy-
ses to avoid capitalizing on chance by standardizing and averaging the two scales.
We refer to this new variable as the IP Composite score. (This composite corre-
lated .52, p < .001, with Neuroticism, and .38, p < .001, with Conscientiousness;
analyses of the individual CIPS and PFS variables are available from the authors.)
To test the predictions, two hierarchical regression analyses were performed. One
tested the effects of Neuroticism in the first step, then Conscientiousness in the
second step, and then the contributions of Openness, Agreeableness, and
Extraversion as a set in the third step. To identify variance in Neuroticism and
Conscientiousness not shared with the other, a second regression model reversed
the order of the first and second steps. Results are shown in Table 3. In Regression
1, Neuroticismmade a significant contribution accounting for 27%of the variance
(p < .001), whereas Conscientiousness contributed just 3% (p < .01). When the or-
der of entry was reversed in a second regression, Conscientiousness accounted for
15% in a first step (p < .001), but Neuroticism accounted for another 15% in a sec-
ond step (p < .001). As expected, the other three NEOPIR domain scales did not
contribute to the prediction of IP, accounting for less than 1% of the variance. In
other words, unconfounded by Conscientiousness, Neuroticism explained 15% of
the variance of IP scores, whereas Conscientiousness unconfounded by
Neuroticism explained 3%; the overlapping variance explained by both traits was
thus 12%. In short, Neuroticism is the best predictor of IP scores, but Conscien-
tiousness adds to the model.
326 BERNARD, DOLLINGER, RAMANIAH
TABLE 1
Descriptive Statistics for CIPS, PFS, and NEOPIR Domain Scales
Instrument M SD
CIPS 52.6 12.7 .90
PFS 179.0 33.0 .89
Neuroticism 94.2 22.7 .90
Extraversion 118.2 21.4 .87
Openness 116.8 21.6 .89
Agreeableness 113.3 20.4 .88
Conscientiousness 109.5 23.0 .91
Note. N = 190. Translated to T scores using college student norms (Costa & McCrae, 1992).
Neuroticism M = 49; Extraversion M = 48; Openness M = 50; Agreeableness M = 50; and
Conscientiousness M = 48. CIPS = Clance Imposter Phenomenon Scale; PFS = Perceived Fraudulence
Scale; NEOPIR = NEOPersonality InventoryRevised.
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Facet-Level Analyses
These results justify further analyses at the facet level for the Neuroticismand Con-
scientiousness domains. First, we reasoned that 3 of the 6 Neuroticismfacets (anxi-
ety, depression, self-consciousness) and 1 of the 6 Conscientiousness facets
(competence) were definitionally closest in meaning to the IP. Hence, we con-
ducted a preliminary set of partial correlations between the 12 facets and IP scores
controlling for the definitional facets within the same domain. As shown in Table 4,
whereas zero order correlations were all statistically significant, none of the three
nondefinitional Neuroticism facets correlated with IP when the definitional facets
IMPOSTOR PHENOMENON 327
TABLE 2
Intercorrelations Among the Imposter Phenomenon Scales and the NEOPersonality
InventoryRevised Domain Scales
Scale CIPS PFS N E O A C
CIPS .69*** .49*** .08 .12 .03 .49***
PFS .68*** .46*** .15 .00 .02 .34**
N .52*** .47*** .39*** .06 .14 .62***
E .05 .03 .32** .38** .13 .20
O .19* .16 .12 .30** .10 .25*
A .00 .23* .20* .17 .13 .10
C .31** .31** .33*** .00 .21* .26**
Note. Correlations above the diagonal are for men (N = 79) and those below the diagonal are for
women(N=111). CIPS=Clance Imposter PhenomenonScale; PFS=PerceivedFraudulence Scale; N=
Neuroticism; E = Extraversion; O = Openness; A = Agreeableness; C = Conscientiousness.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
TABLE 3
Results of Hierarchical Regression Analyses for Predicting Composite Imposter
Phenomenon Score Using the NEOPersonality InventoryRevised Domains
Step Predictors R R
2
R
2
Change
F
Change
Regression 1: Neuroticism in Step 1
1. Neuroticism .518 .269 .269 69.0***
2. Conscientiousness .543 .295 .027 7.1**
3. Extraversion, Agreeableness, Openness .550 .303 .008 0.7
Regression 2: Conscientiousness in Step 1
1. Conscientiousness .383 .146 .146 32.2***
2. Neuroticism .543 .295 .149 39.5***
3. Extraversion, Agreeableness, Openness .550 .303 .008 0.7
Note. Final regression s were: Neuroticism = .47; Conscientiousness = .17; Extraversion = .09;
Openness = .01; Agreeableness = .01.
**p < .01. ***p < .001.
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were controlled. However, the Conscientiousness facet of self-discipline remained
significant, r =.27, p <.001, when the competence facet was partialled. (Although
the achievement striving facet did not remain significant when competence was
controlled, the moderate negative zero order correlation with IP scores is certainly
interestinggiventhat imposters are describedas beinghighachievement strivers.)
Based on these correlations, we submitted these four definitional facets and the
self-discipline facet to a hierarchical regression predicting IP scores. Together the
four facets in Step 1 accounted for 41%of the variance, R = .64, F(4, 185) = 31.6, p
< .001. Step 2, adding the self-discipline facet, explained an additional 2% of the
variance, F(1, 184) = 5.4, p < .05. The final betas in descending order for the model
were depression = .47, p < .001; self-discipline = .16, p < .05; anxiety = .15, p <
.05; competence = .09, ns; and self-consciousness = .09, ns.
Supplementary Findings
Although the literature suggests that the IPis salient for high-achieving individuals,
self-reported GPA was unrelated to the IP Composite, r = .01. A reanalysis of the
basic correlational pattern for those with GPAs of 3.0 and above and those with
GPAs below 3.0 yielded the same pattern of strong positive correlations with
328 BERNARD, DOLLINGER, RAMANIAH
TABLE 4
Correlations of Imposter Composite Score With Neuroticism and Conscientiousness Facets
Subscale and Facets Zero Order r Partial r
a
Neuroticism
Anxiety .45***
Angry Hostility .21* .07
Depression .61***
SelfConsciousness .36***
Impulsiveness .35*** .10
Vulnerability .26*** .13
Conscientiousness
Competence .37***
Order .21* .08
Dutifulness .22* .07
Achievement Striving .31*** .13
SelfDiscipline .41*** .27***
Deliberation .26*** .08
Note. N = 190.
a
Facets closest to the definition of Imposter Phenomenon (Anxiety, Depression, and Self-
Consciousness, or Competence) were partialled from the other facets within the corresponding trait
domain.
*p < .05. ***p < .001.
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Neuroticism and moderate negative correlations with Conscientiousness. Hence,
actual achievement did not moderate the IP Personality relations. IP composite
scores were also uncorrelated with whether participants mother or father were col-
lege graduates, rs = .08 and .03, respectively. Given that IP sufferers are said to
sometimes be overachievers, it is interestingly that the direction of correlation be-
tween the IP composite and self-reported hours of study per week was negative, al-
beit nonsignificant, r = .10, ns. Thus, for this sample, it did not appear that
collegiate IP sufferers dealt with their imposter feelings by studying harder.
DISCUSSION
As in past research, this study found the CIPS and PFS to be internally consistent
and to have a very strong intercorrelation (approximately .70) supporting their con-
current validity. Also in accord with our predictions, there was a moderately strong
positive relation between the IPscales and Neuroticismand a weaker negative rela-
tion between the IP scales and Conscientiousness. These results, which are consis-
tent with those of Chae et al. (1995), help anchor the IP within the comprehensive
framework of the FFM of personality, indicating that IP is more than just
Neuroticism. Results also help characterize high IP scorers of both genders as indi-
viduals who are disposed to feelings of depression and anxiety. These results are
generally consistent with the one other study on IP and the FFM(Chae et al., 1995)
with one minor difference: Chae et al. found significant but low negative correla-
tions of the CIPS with the Extraversion and Agreeableness domains; we did not.
For several reasons, the finding of a substantial association between imposter
feelings and Neuroticism is not surprising. The IP is defined in terms of negative
affects such as self-doubt. Thus, persons prone to trait negativity should be suscep-
tible to the state of imposter feelings. Second, past correlates of the construct are
similar to aspects of Neuroticism, notably depression and anxiety (Chrisman et al.,
1995). Presumably the underlying trait of Neuroticism would exist prior to the de-
velopment of imposter feelings, although the association could also be due to other
unknown variables that could contribute to both. For example, it is conceivable
that family dynamics could predispose some individuals toward both Neuroticism
and imposter feelings. As Clance and Imes (1978) noted, few clients come in spe-
cifically for treatment of imposter feelings and it seems likely that they may have a
variety of associated negative affects prompting their request for therapy.
Less intuitively obvious is the negative association between Conscientiousness
and the IP. Certainly the negative correlation between imposter feelings and the
competence facet is sensibleimposters do not feel competent. However, a com-
mon sense solution to feeling inadequate or unprepared for ones occupational role
would be the strategy of the conscientious person, namely more effort (Dollinger,
Leong, & Ulicni, 1996; Dollinger & Orf, 1991). However, those with imposter
IMPOSTOR PHENOMENON 329
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feelings do not seem to be dispositionally inclined toward this style, scoring low
on most facets of Conscientiousness, especially self-discipline. (Note too that the
correlation of the IP composite with hours of study per week was actually nega-
tive, albeit nonsignificant; cf. Cozzarelli &Major, 1990.) Within a Korean sample,
Chae et al. (1995) also found negative correlations between the CIPS and
NEOPIR Conscientiousness and showed that the competence and self-disci-
pline facets were the most consistent and strongest across genders.
Two explanations for this pattern of low Conscientiousness seem plausible.
First, it may be that those inclined to imposter feelings place much greater faith in
their intelligence than in their effort (or that their parents did so). Innate intelli-
gence might allow some to succeed, particularly in high school. However, beyond
high school, effort would be increasingly necessary because Conscientiousness
seems to be the primary personality correlate of success in a wide range of careers
(Barrick & Mount, 1991).
The lack of Conscientiousness combined with Neuroticismraises a second pos-
sibility, namely that the IP is a personality equivalent of the social psychological
process of self-handicapping (Berglas, 1990; Snyder, 1990). Self-handicapping
strategies are excuse-providing behaviors such as substance use or subjective
physical ailments that serve to justify low effort and thus provide ready self-pro-
tective attributions when failure occurs. For example, a self-handicapper who fails
an important exam might still believe in his or her high intelligence because situa-
tional factors like physical ailments or too much partying interfered with his or her
ability to prepare for and succeed at the crucial moment. Although self-handicap-
pers and imposters share a fragile sense of competence, they may differ in their at-
tributions for success in that self-handicappers may focus on internal causes as
compared with imposters who attribute to external causes. This analysis suggests
that research in both areas might be advanced by a systematic comparison of the IP
and self-handicapping. Consistent with this view, a recent series of studies sup-
ports the notion that IP reflects a self-presentation strategy designed to minimize
the implications of poor performance (Leary, Patton, Orlando, & Funk, 2000).
As noted earlier, clinical and theoretical writings on the IP (Clance, 1985;
Clance & Imes, 1978) imply that imposters may exhibit high or low levels of Con-
scientiousness. Taking our findings along with those of Chae et al. (1995), it ap-
pears that the construct of IP should be refined to eliminate the implication of high
achievement striving. Alternatively, measures of IP should be revised so that they
reflect inconsistency in the imposters standing on Conscientiousness-related be-
haviors. Taking a broader perspective, the findings conform to Piedmonts (1995)
analysis of performance-related motivational constructs in terms of the FFM. That
is, Piedmont suggested that the performance inhibition reflected in constructs like
fear of success, fear of failure, and trait anxiety reflect the intersection of high
Neuroticism and low Conscientiousness. Thus, we concur with Chae et al. (1995)
in viewing IP as another construct in this category.
330 BERNARD, DOLLINGER, RAMANIAH
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Other Individual Differences
According to Clance and OToole (1988), the IP occurs primarily in successful
women and involves such symptoms as the need to be very special, perfectionism,
fear of failure, discounting of competence, and fear of and guilt about success. Al-
though the IP affects both men and women, it may interfere more with womens
functioning; that is, women may be handicapped by an inability to resolve certain
childhood issues, thus experiencing a conflict between femininity and masculine
characteristics such as autonomy. There were no gender differences in the mean
level of IP scores in this study, and the pattern of personality correlates was gener-
ally quite similar for men and women.
Minority groups also may be susceptible to the IP (Ewing, Richardson, James-
Myers, & Russell, 1996). Although based on a small sample (N = 38), supplemen-
tary analyses for our sample showed that Neuroticism was clearly the best predic-
tor of IP scores among African American participants (Bernard, 1999).
Treatment Implications
The personality correlates of IP suggest that the treatment of those with imposter
feelings should take into account first their depression and anxiety either by focus-
ing on that broader level in treatment or by including assessments of such traits over
the course of treatment. Second, although Conscientiousness is a less powerful pre-
dictor of IPthan is Neuroticism, one must still take into account the imposters rela-
tively low level of Conscientiousness. It may be that impostors want to feel
respected and gain greater self-esteem through their academic and professional
pursuits but have not yet earned it due to their lack of self-discipline. College stu-
dent IP sufferers may benefit from learning appropriate self-control and study
skills. Moreover, counselors should also focus on clients cognitions and fantasies
about the ends, which are distal (the awards and professional status that they may
value), versus the means, which are proximal (preparation for the next test that may
elicit various conflicts). Finally, given the negative zero order correlation of IPwith
the achievement striving facet, therapists should attend to internal conflicts be-
tween the wish to achieve professional goals and low internal dispositions toward
achievement striving.
Limitations and Future Directions
The use of a convenience sample of college students limits generalization. How-
ever, it is noteworthy that findings of this study converge with those of Chae et al.
(1995) who used a Korean adult sample. Similarly, as in all correlational research,
IMPOSTOR PHENOMENON 331
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causal inferences are unwarranted; therefore, caution is advised in interpreting the
results. However, future studies linking the IP to self-handicapping could employ
interventions that allowfor the study of State Trait interactions, which would af-
ford greater inferential certainty. Additionally, IP researchers might profitably
study the academic and self-control skills associated with achievement striving for
collegiate IP sufferers.
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Stephen J. Dollinger
Department of Psychology
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901
E-mail: dollngr@siu.edu
Received August 28, 2000
Revised September 22, 2001
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