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Purpose: This chapter presents empirical evidence on the effects of attributional retraining (AR), a motivation-enhancing treatment that can offset maladaptive explanatory mind-sets arising from adverse learning experiences. The evidence shows that AR is effective for assisting college students to adapt to competitive and challenging achievement settings. Design/methodology/approach: This chapter describes the characteristics of AR protocols and details three primary advances in studying AR efficacy in terms of achievement performance, psychosocial outcomes, and processes that mediate AR-performance linkages. The psychological mechanisms that underpin AR effects on motivation and performance are outlined from the perspective of Weiner’s (1974, 1986, 2012) attribution theory. Findings: Laboratory and field studies show that AR treatments are potent interventions that have short-term and long-lasting psychosocial, motivation, and performance benefits in achievement settings. Students who participate in AR programs are better off than their no-AR counterparts not just in their cognitive and affective prospects, but they also outperform their no-AR peers in class tests, course grades, and grade-point-averages, and are more persistent in terms of course credits and graduation rates. Originality/value: This paper contributes to the emerging literature on treatment interventions in achievement settings by documenting key advances in the development of AR protocols and by identifying the next steps critical to moving the literature forward. Further progress in understanding AR efficacy will rest on examining the analysis of complex attributional thinking, the mediation of AR treatment effects, and the boundary conditions that moderate AR treatment efficacy.


Institute for Positive Psychology and Education

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Journal Article

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