Understanding Imposter Phenomenon in Graduate Students Using Achievement Goal Theory

Linda Cheung, Fordham University


Early research found that high-achieving women often reported symptoms of imposter phenomenon (IP), a phenomenon where individuals fear being found out as a fraud related to their academic or professional success. Recent research has shown that men and people of color also experience IP at some point in their career, particularly when working in non-traditional fields. Studies also found IP to have motivational bases; nevertheless, there are limited studies exploring the relationship between IP and motivational factors such as achievement goals (Kumar & Jagacinski, 2006). Thus, the purpose of this study was to explore further the link between IP and achievement goals and to extend prior research examining demographic differences in IP. A sample of graduate students (N = 496) between the ages of 18 to 71 who were enrolled in business, education, social work, engineering, medicine, nursing, and psychology courses were recruited to complete a web-based survey. A hierarchical regression examined whether gender, ethnicity and/or enrollment in a non-traditional major predicted the relationship between IP and achievement goal orientation. Overall, the results indicated that performance-avoidance goals positively predicted IP. No associations were found between IP and the other achievement goals when performance-avoidance goals were in the model. Contrary to expectations, patterns of IP were not found to differ by gender, ethnicity, or major.

Subject Area

Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Cheung, Linda, "Understanding Imposter Phenomenon in Graduate Students Using Achievement Goal Theory" (2018). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10824833.