Magazine article Psychology Today

What's Your Excuse?

Magazine article Psychology Today

What's Your Excuse?

Article excerpt

MAKING EXCUSES MAY be poorform-whether we're summoning a halfbaked reason for going 45 In a 30-mph zone or blaming the subway forour lateness, aga/n-but we use them anyway, at least occasionally, to deflect some of the blame for our mlsteps. Is It really worthwhile to rationalize our actions? When is It better to take full responsibility?

Insomesituations, research suggests, excuses work perfectly well. An analysis by Gettysburg College psychologist Christopher P. Barlett indicates that ifyou've donesomething toannoy someone, a thoughtful excuse-like "I'm sorry, I've been feeling realty irritable today"-can stave off retaliatory feelings. Another study finds that in dealing with complaints, businessescan make a problem feel less serious to customers by deploying an excuse.

Frequent excuse making, however, comes with risks. A new study suggests that self-handicapping-behaviorthat precedesa performance and is intended to explain away any potential poor results C'ldidn'tgetaroundto studying math until last night")-isassociated with lower motivation and achievement in students. …

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