Does perfectionism or pursuit of excellence contribute to successful learning? A meta-analytic review

Psychol Assess. 2020 Oct;32(10):972-983. doi: 10.1037/pas0000942. Epub 2020 Jul 27.


Confusion exists about the construct of perfectionism, considered to consist of perfectionistic strivings (PS) and perfectionistic concerns (PC). Recent theory suggests that pursuit of excellence is related to PS but differentiated by having a more positive impact. To test this hypothesis, we used a meta-analytic analysis to examine the associations between different measures of perfectionism and academic achievement. Correlations between academic measures (performance, academic burnout and stress, test anxiety, procrastination, self-efficacy, engagement, satisfaction, adjustment, hardiness, learning strategies) and subscales of the Frost Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale, Hewitt Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale, Almost Perfect Scale-Revised, and Child and Adolescent Perfectionism Scale were investigated in students (Mage = 19.31, SD = 4.26). A systematic literature search yielded 67 studies (378 effect sizes). Subscales relating to standards (High Standards, Personal Standards, Self-Oriented Perfectionism) were positively related to academic performance and helpful academic outcomes. Only High Standards, which has a focus on striving for excellence, had negative associations with unhelpful academic outcomes. Two of the four subscales that measured PC (Discrepancy, Doubts about Actions) were negatively related to academic performance, and Discrepancy shared a negative association with helpful academic outcomes. All PC subscales were positively associated with unhelpful academic outcomes. As such, PC are maladaptive for successful learning and a distinction between PS and healthy pursuit of excellence is worth further exploration. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Academic Success*
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Perfectionism*