The Impostor Phenomenon and causal attributions of positive feedback on intelligence tests

•The Impostor Phenomenon (IP) is characterized by attributional styles.

•Participants completed numerical and verbal intelligence tasks.

•Participants received positive feedback on their performance.

•IP does not relate to actual performance in intelligence tests.

•IP relates to attributing positive feedback to external-instable-specific causes.

The Impostor Phenomenon (IP) is characterized by an external-instable-specific attributional style (i.e., Impostors perceive successful performance as due to chance). To our knowledge no study has yet tested this notion in real-life situations. Therefore, we invited 76 participants to complete computer-based numerical and verbal intelligence tasks, gave them positive feedback, irrespective of their actual performance, and assessed their attributions of the positive performance feedback. While the self-reported IP was unrelated to psychometrically measured intelligence (rs ≤ 0.07), those high in IP discounted their performance and attributed the cause for their performance as external-instable-specific (r = 0.40). The findings hold when controlling for age, gender, and actual performance. Our study extends the knowledge on the associations between the IP and causal attributions of performance. We discuss how addressing attributional styles could benefit interventions for the IP.