Perfectionism: Dependent on Frustration of Basic Needs

Human behavior is a puzzle that scientists are trying to understand. A group of researchers, led by Kaitlyn M. Werner of the University of Toronto, recently looked at a peculiar piece of this puzzle: perfectionism. They wondered whether frustration with our basic psychological needs – autonomy, competence and relatedness – influences the degree of perfectionism we display.

Research Idea: Context Affects Perfectionism

Werner and her team were interested in the influence of environment on perfectionism. They wanted to understand whether having our basic needs frustrated or satisfied affects how much we strive for perfection and how critically we judge ourselves. The team hypothesized that if our needs are more frustrated, we would show more self-critical perfectionism.

Study 1: Perfectionism in Different Domains

In the first study, the participants, mostly college students, identified several key areas of life. They reported how their needs were frustrated or satisfied in each domain, and how this affected their perfectionism. The results showed that the students reported higher levels of self-critical perfectionism in the domains where they experienced more frustration.

Study 2: Perfectionism Changes Over Time

In the second study, the researchers examined whether frustration or satisfaction of needs predicted the change in perfectionism over time. They asked students to fill out questionnaires about their needs and perfectionism over a semester. The results showed that students with higher levels of need frustration at the beginning of the semester reported an increase in self-critical perfectionism throughout the semester.

Important Results

Both studies showed that when basic needs are more frustrated, people show more self-critical perfectionism. This was true across domains as well as over time. It also became clear that people who experienced more need satisfaction set higher personal standards, but this did not influence changes in perfectionism over time.

Conclusion and Implications

Werner and her team have shown that perfectionism is not a fixed trait, but can vary depending on the context. Frustration of basic needs can lead to more self-critical perfectionism, which can impact mental health. So it is important to provide a supportive environment in which basic needs can be met. Future research can further explore these findings and explore their applications in different contexts and populations.