The imposter phenomenon and its relationship with self-efficacy, perfectionism and happiness in university students

Csilla Pakozdy, Jemima Askew, Jessica Dyer, Phoebe Gately, Leya Martin, Ken Mavor, Gillian Ruth Brown*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Individuals who experience the imposter phenomenon (IP) have feelings of self-doubt and are concerned that they will be exposed as frauds. Previous research has indicated that IP is associated with anxiety, depression and low self-esteem, and university students are thought to be particularly susceptible to IP. This study investigated the relationship between IP and self-efficacy, maladaptive perfectionism and happiness in university students, and examined whether these variables differ between females and males. The study also examined whether IP was associated with belonging and perceived levels of academic competition. Participants (N = 261) completed the Clance Imposter Phenomenon Scale (CIPS), New General Self-Efficacy (NGSE), Big Three Perfectionism Scale – Short Form (BTPS-SF), Oxford Happiness Questionnaire (OHQ), plus measures of belonging and perceived competition. As predicted, CIPS scores correlated negatively with NGSE and OHQ and positively with BTPS-SF in both sexes. Females scored higher, on average, than males on CIPS and BTPS-SF, and the gender difference in CIPS remained after indirect effects of perfectionism were removed. Neither belonging nor competition correlated with CIPS scores. The negative relationship between perfectionism and happiness was fully mediated by imposterism, which suggests that designing interventions that reduce IP could positively enhance student wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5153–5162
JournalCurrent Psychology
Early online date8 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • Imposter syndrome
  • Fraudulence
  • Perfectionism
  • Self-efficacy
  • Happiness


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