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A person whose performance disproportionately exceeds ability; academically, a student, whose academic achievement disproportionately exceeds his or her performance on standardized intelligence tests.

The terms "overachiever" and "underachiever," most often applied to school and academia, both refer to gaps between academic performance and IQ test scores. Generally, these terms are not used by either educators or psychologists. However, clinical psychologist Marilyn Sorenson in her book, Breaking the Chain of Low Self-Esteem, maintains that people with low self-esteem often find themselves driven to overachieve to build self-worth. Overachievers increasingly take on new projects and drive themselves to perfection, often becoming known as "workaholics." Overachievement may occur in one area of a person's life without pervading the entire life. The fear of failure drives underachievers, according to Sorenson. Gripped by their fears of failure and humiliation, underachievers fail to realize their skill or talent potential. While often viewed with a negative connotation, overachievement has come to be valued in a number of corporations, competing to remain at the top of their field. Sometimes the term is used in informal communication to describe a person intent on gathering tangible or recognized symbols of accomplishment, such as educational degrees, awards, and honorary positions.

See also Perfectionism

Further Reading

Sorensen, Marilyn J. Breaking the Chain of Low Self-Esteem. Sherwood, OR: Wolf Pub., 1998.

Additional topics

Psychology EncyclopediaPsychological Dictionary: Ibn Bajjah (Abu-Bakr Muhammad ibn-Yahya ibn-al-Saʼigh, c.1106–38) Biography to Perception: cultural differences