This study finds that men are more susceptible to Imposter Syndrome than we thought

It is believed that more women tend to experience Imposter Syndrome as a result of social conditioning. However in a new exploratory paper, published in Personality and Individual Differences, researchers found that more men may experience Imposter Syndrome, especially when amplified by stress.

If you think women are the only ones dealing with Imposter Syndrome you would be wrong. Imposter Syndrome, which was a term first coined in the 1970s, revolves around the concept of feeling like you are not good enough for the role you are in and the fear that your fraud will be discovered.

It is believed that more women tend to experience Imposter Syndrome as a result of social conditioning. However in a new exploratory paper, published in Personality and Individual Differences, researchers found that more men may experience Imposter Syndrome, especially when amplified by stress. Men also feel the pressure of social conditioning in that they men are expected to be successful.

The study used hundreds of female and male undergrad students and then gave them a scale to rate themselves with items they could select like “Sometimes I’m afraid others will discover how much knowledge or ability I really lack” as well as verbal and numerical questions. Then the researchers gave half the students fake negative feedback saying they had answered the questions incorrectly.

Men are more sensitive to negative feedback

Interestingly the results found that even though overall more women reported having Imposter Syndrome, it was the feedback that affected the men more. The male students reported higher anxiety and then made less effort on tasks they were asked to do resulting in poorer performances. The male students who received positive feedback had better performances. And even more interestingly the women who also heard the negative feedback and were experiences feelings of imposter syndrome, responded to this feedback by working harder and then performing better.

“Assuming that traditional gender norms hold, males [with imposter syndrome] may have exhibited  stronger negative reactions because they believe that society at large values males who demonstrate high competence and at the same time, do not believe that they can fulfil this standard,” the researchers said.

The research team suggested that managers should encourage mentoring of their male employees.

 

Meredith Lepore|is the Deputy Editor of Ladders and can be reached at mlepore@theladders.com.