Distress intolerance in goal pursuit: Validation of a novel behavioral measure




Vargo, Luke

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Elevated levels of grit, while regarded as a beneficial characteristic indicative of success and well-being, may induce amoral and unethical behaviors associated with Machiavellianism. However, failure to withstand distress associated with goal attainment, such as adjusting goals and deadlines or engaging with tedious tasks, may better explain the adoption of Machiavellian strategies. If an individual is overwhelmed with negative affect and poorly equipped to cope, they might be more inclined to cheat, manipulate others, or engage in other callous behaviors to mitigate distress and continue progressing towards their goal. Study 1 (N = 139) tested this hypothesis using a self-report measure of distress intolerance, and Study 2 (N = 171) replicated these self-reported results while also validating a novel measure of behavioral distress intolerance, “Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy,” to address limitations of existing assessments. Combined, results from both studies suggested higher levels of grit do not predict employment of Machiavellian attitudes, and, in fact, fostering grit may be a protective factor against Machiavellianism by indirectly improving a persons’ ability to withstand negative affect. Finally, the proposed novel task successfully elicited negative affective states and performance, specifically total playtime and number of setbacks experienced, predicted self-reported distress intolerance. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.



grit, Machiavellianism, distress intolerance, behavioral distress intolerance


Vargo, L. (2023). Distress intolerance in goal pursuit: Validation of a novel behavioral measure (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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