Predictors of Impostor Phenomenon in Graduate Students at an HBCU in Middle Tennessee

Mary Elizabeth Mangum, Tennessee State University


Many graduate students have and are suffering from, a mindset that questions their abilities and belonging in graduate programs. Some researchers have argued that this mental state is hindering many students from persisting in graduate school and completing their degree programs (Clance and Imes, 1978). This questioning and self-doubt are called Impostor Phenomenon (IP). This study assumes that by identifying correlates and examining various demographic and non-cognitive factors of IP, one can begin to recognize strategies to avoid the anxiety, decrease the self-doubt, and prevent the worry that may accompany IP in graduate students, thus breaking the Imposter Cycle as defined by Clance (1985). Using two pre-existing instruments: The Short GRIT Scale (GRIT-S) (Duckworth and Quinn, 2009) and the Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale (CIPS) (Clance, 1978), and a brief demographic questionnaire, 74 graduate students at one Historically Black University/College (HBCU) in the Mid-south were surveyed to investigate the extent to which they experience IP, perseverance, and passion. Statistical analyses included independent t-tests, analysis of variance (ANOVA) Pearson correlation analyses, and binary logistic regression analysis. Among the major findings include: (a) a statistically significant difference (p = .014) in total GRIT score between Black females ( M = 3.29, SD = .51) and Black males (M = 2.75, SD = .51); (b) a statistically significant difference (p = .030) in the GRIT subscale passion between Black females (M = 3.29, SD = .88) and Black males (M = 2.50, SD = .46); and, (c) a statistically significant difference (p = .048) in IP subscale fake between females (M = 2.37, SD = .84) and males (M = 2.45, SD = .86). Additionally, all levels of all demographic groups reported IP levels at Level II (scores ranging between 41-60) except three groups reporting IP levels at Level III (scores ranging between 61-80). These groups, in descending order included: GPA: 3.01-3.50 (M = 65.00); Major : Health Sciences (M = 64.27); and Race : International (M = 61.20). Finally, when proposing a model for predicting IP (low IP or high IP) from the variables presented in this study, it was found that only scores in race (p < .000), major (p = .045), GPA (p = .022), passion (p < .000), and perseverance (p = .005) made significant contributions in predicting IP. Scores in the remaining predictor variables: gender, age, FGCS, degree, and family structure were not significant predictors and did not contribute to the model.

Subject Area

Black studies|Educational leadership|Educational psychology|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Mary Elizabeth Mangum, "Predictors of Impostor Phenomenon in Graduate Students at an HBCU in Middle Tennessee" (2018). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI10978943.