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Characteristics of challenging situations: two policy-capturing studies

Sandra Ohly (Business Psychology Group, University of Kassel, Kassel, Germany)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 11 June 2019

Issue publication date: 11 June 2019




Although the appraisal of a situation as challenging has positive effects on performance and stress-related outcomes, the situational and individual characteristics that make challenge appraisal likely are far from clear. The purpose of this paper is to test these characteristics based on a review of the conceptualizations of challenge and the associated positive effects.


Potential characteristics of challenge are tested in two policy-capturing studies using a full factorial experimental design.


Results reveal that situations are appraised as more challenging than threatening when goal importance, task difficulty and controllability are high rather than low.

Research limitations/implications

These results indicate that challenge and threat are distinguished through the means a person believes to have available to cope with demands, an aspect of controllability.


This paper provides a first experimental test of characteristics of challenging situations.



Ohly, S. (2019), "Characteristics of challenging situations: two policy-capturing studies", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 34 No. 3, pp. 170-183.



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