Toward a new conceptualization of perfectionism: evaluating, adjusting, and expanding past and current conceptualizations of perfectionism




Sloat, Sharolyn Gertrud

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Perfectionism, a condition which has been linked with psychopathology, has been conceptualized somewhat disparately. This study was concerned with scrutinizing past and current conceptualizations of perfectionism, with developing and proposing a framework for evaluating conceptualizations of perfectionism, and with contributing to current conceptualizations and measures of perfectionism via qualitative inquiry. This study presented an argument for using a proximal-distal approach to conceptualizing perfectionism and put forward the Framework for Evaluating Conceptualizations of Perfectionism (FECP) as a tool for doing so. Evidence was found for using this approach by way of conducting tape recorded interviews of six perfectionists and using grounded theory research methodology to analyse the data. The analysis yielded a new theoretical model for perfectionism which has implications for conceptualizing, measuring, and treating perfectionism. For instance, perfectionism may be best viewed in terms of object, process, and inextricable cognitive responses. The results of interviewing the participants of this study suggest the object of perfectionism is a Cognitive Diathesis for Perfectionism (CDP). The results also suggest that the process of perfectionism is made up of three behavioural imperatives: (1) Forming ideals of perfection, (2) Striving for perfection, and (3) Evaluating for perfection. Finally, they suggest that evaluating for perfection inevitably leads to cognitive dissonance. Peripheral to perfectionism are its distal consequences and correlates, its antecedents and maintenance, and any effective coping or tempering strategies that may help to manage it. Only the object, process, and cognitive responses of perfectionism should be incorporated into an overall measure of perfectionism. Antecedents and maintenance, and distal consequences and correlates of perfectionism measures should be administered separately. The management of perfectionism is most effectively aimed at tempering striving for perfection and evaluating for perfection.



Perfection, Psychology, Behavioral imperatives