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Individual Differences in the Impostor Phenomenon and its Relevance in Higher Education

Former IDA student Roberta Dumitrescu wrote her Master thesis under the supervision of Elien de Caluwé and presented the topic at the graduation ceremony on September 24, 2022.

Few theoretical and empirical works have described impostor phenomenon and no study explored impostorism from a dark side. Research in this field has the potential to increase our understanding of different impostor variants and their associated risk, as well as inform researchers about possible ways to develop tailor-made treatments. Using a sample of university students with ages between 18 and 27 years old enrolled in a Dutch study program, N = 306 (64,4% females), we adopted a person-centered approach to identify clusters of impostors based on scores on the impostor phenomenon, perfectionistic self-presentation and the dark triad. The latent profile analysis suggested a 6-cluster solution, which was further compared in terms of psychopathology symptoms (i.e., burnout, generalized anxiety, and fear of failure) by means of MANOVA and one-way ANOVAs. In line with previous research, our results indicated that impostorism relies on a self-presentation strategy that helps the individual cope and adapt to external factors. Moreover, there was variability in the symptomatology, meaning that different impostors experienced psychopathology according to their level of impostorism, with individuals scoring high on impostor phenomenon experiencing higher levels of burnout, generalized anxiety and fear of failure compared to individuals scoring low on this construct. Finally, we make a claim regarding the traditional way of classifying people, by emphasizing that looking at impostor phenomenon from a continuum might enhance our understanding about what makes someone suffer from impostorism.

Keywords: impostor phenomenon, perfectionistic self-presentation, dark triad, academic difficulties, latent profile analysis

After having been promoted from Learning Intervention Teacher to Learning Support Teaching Assistant at the American International School of Bucharest, Roberta is now responsible for providing supervision and support for students across the school setting, especially in classes where students with an intervention plan are located. She observes, gathers data and reports progress or concerns.

Congratulations, Roberta! We wish you the best of luck with your teaching assistant position!

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