Sport Psychology

Sport and the Individual

  • Created by: Suzanna
  • Created on: 22-03-14 11:22

Sport and the Individual

1. Personality

1.1 Personality measures ~ Cattell’s 16 personality factors (16PF) (1965)

1.2 Theories of personality ~ Eysenck’s trait theory (1965)

1.3  Relevance to sport ~ Kroll and Crenshaw (1970) Personality profiles in different sports.

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1.1 Personality Measures

Key Study - Cattell's 16 Personality Factors (16PF) (1965)

Cattell developed the 16 personality factor questionnaire.

  • Researchers searched through 2 English dictionaries to identify all possible words to describe personality. From this 4,500 adjectives were identified and split into 181 clusters.
  • Participants were asked to rate people who they knew against adjectives on the list. Using factor analysis Cattell organised the results and generated 12 factors that seemed to identify major different personality types.Cattell then included 4 more types.
  • The result was a list of 16 different, independent primary factors which Cattell proposed individuals use to describe themselves and each other.
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Cattell’s 16 personality factors

  1. Abstractedness: Imaginative versus practical
  2. Apprehension: Worried versus confident
  3. Dominance: Forceful versus submissive
  4. Emotional Stability: Calm versus high strung
  5. Liveliness: Spontaneous versus restrained
  6. Openness to Change: Flexible versus attached to the familiar
  7. Perfectionism: Controlled versus undisciplined
  8. Privateness: Discreet versus open
  9. Reasoning: Abstract versus concrete
  10. Rule Consciousness: Conforming versus non-conforming
  11. Self-Reliance: Self-sufficient versus dependent
  12. Sensitivity: Tender-hearted versus tough-minded.
  13. Social Boldness: Uninhibited versus shy
  14. Tension: Impatient versus relaxed
  15. Vigilance: Suspicious versus trusting
  16. Warmth: Outgoing versus reserved
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Evaluation of Cattell

+ The use of factor analysis to identify interrelationships among a large number of variables gives this study high validity.

+ High reliablity - This personality measure is now a copyrighted test and is widely used in many fields.

- Construct Validuty is low because whether a scale measures the unobservable construct that it purports to measure is debateable. It is attempting to measure something that does not exist in a physical sense.

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1.2 Theories of Personality

Key study: Eysenck's Trait Theory (1965)

Eysenck's developed an orthogonal theory of personality in which he proposed that we are all somewhere on a continum of two main personality dimentions: Extraversion (E) and Neuroticism (N). He later added a third dimension, that of Psychoticism (P), which assess aggression as well as mental instability.

Extrovert is seen as the positive one and deals with how outgoing or self-contained you are.

Neuroticism is seen as the negative trait and deals with how stable or unstable you are.

his theor was based on MZ and DZ twins. He postulated that tests of neuroticism on twin pairs showed that levels of neuroticism are an inherited trait. He proposed that all personalities can be mapped.

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Evaluation of Eysenck

+ Eysenck proposed a biological basis to his dimensial model of personality.

+ Eysenck put in a lie scale to try to assess truthfulness, however, it is difficult to interpret the results.

+ Usefulness ~ Various Psychological measures have been developed based on the basis of Eysenck's theory, including the EPQ.

Also it has been supplaned by the big 5 personality model.

- It is attempting to measure something that does not exist physically.

- It is only a theory.

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1.3 Relevance to Sport

Key study: Kroll and Crenshaw (1970) Personality profiles in different sports.

Aim: To compare personality profiles, using Cattell's 16PF between different sports where the competitors are at establised levels of athletic achievement.Four sports were studied: American football players, gymnasts, wrestles and karate participants.

Participants: 387 athletes were studied. (81 footballers, 141 gymnasts, 94 wrestlers and 71 karate)

Procedure: Cattell's 16PF and the 15-item lie scale of the Minnesota Multiphasic personality invetory (MMPI) was given to the participants. Statistical analysis was employed to determine whether groups of subjects could be distinguished from one another.

Results: There was a significant difference between all groups except the football-wrestling group, suggesting that football players and wrestlers were similar to each other and significantly different from gymnasts and karate participants.

Conclusion: Kroll and Crenshaw found significant factors as discriminators between team sports and individual sports and between certain sports in particular those used in this study.

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Evaluation of Kroll and Crenshaw

+ High control of variables by using participants with similar ability levels.

+ There is concurrent valididty because the study uses the 16PF and the MMPI measures.

+ High reliablity because consistent results were achieved for each sporting group.

- However an ethnocentric sample of American sports is used meaning that it may be difficult to generalise findings.

- Use of questionnaires may mean answers are open to social desirability.

- Questionnaires are also reductionist as they do not provide reasons for why certain sports are best suited to particular personality types.

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1.Personality Summary

  • There are various ways of attempting to measure personality.
  • Factor analysis of a large sample of individuals usually reveals 5 underlying factors that explain most personality variation. (The Big 5)
  • Eysenck's study suggested that sports people are more likely to be extravert and not troubled with anxiety.
  • However, many non-athletes may also share these characteristics.
  • The trait approach suggests that psychometric testing may prove appropriate and effective, as can be seen in Cattell 16PF and Eysenck's approach.
  • Kroll and Crenshaw were able to differentiatie personality among different sports.
  • However, while personality may be a predictor of sports performance, it is not a strong one and other factors are more important.
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2. Aggression

Aggression is attacking or hostile behaviour.

2.1 Instinct theories

Key Study: Freud's theory of aggression.

Freud initially described a class of drives known as the life instincts and believed that these drives were responsible for much of our behaviour, but they could not explain all behaviour on their own.

Freud determined that all instincts fall into one of two categories: Life or Death instincts.

Life Instincts (Eros)

Sometimes referred to as sexual instincts, the life instincts are those that deal with basic survival, pleasure and reproduction. These instincts are important for sustaining the life of the individual as well as the continuation of the species. While they are often called sexual instincts, these drives also included such things as thirst, hunger and pain avoidance. The energy created by the life instincts is known as libido.

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2.1 Freud's theory of aggression

Death Instincts (Thanatos)

Initially Frued proposed that the "goal of all life is death." He notes that after people experience a traumatic event (such as war), they often re-enact the experience. He concluded that people hold an unconscious desire to die, but that this wish is largely tempered by the life instincts.

In Freud's view, self-destructive behaviour is an expression of the energy created by the death instincts. When this energy is directed outward onto others, it is expressed as aggression and violence.

however, this aggression is released in a positive way through sport. This creates a cathartic effect due to the release of pent up aggression. This can lead to a balance in life so participation in sport, or even just watching sport will have a cathartic effect.

Freud also accounts for displacement whereby a performer may re-direct an emotional response from a dangerous target onto a safe one eg kicking the ground rather than the opposition.

Both theories suggest that sport should reduce aggression, however, this is not always the case.

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Evaluation of Freud

- Much research into sport participation tends to increase aggression levels, not reduce it as Freud suggests.

- If the catharsis model is correct, competitors from the most aggressive sports should be the most sedentary (relaxed) people and chess players the more violent.

- Cultures with high sports participation should be the most gentle. Cross cultural studies do not suggest this.

- Cross - Cultural research shows a wide variation with regard to aggression levels, suggesting that social and environmental factos are crucial in determining levels of aggression.

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2.2 Social Theories

Key study: Berkowitz and Geen (1966) Film violence and the cue properties of available targets.

Particpants: 88 male unversity students mainly studying Psychology.

Procedure: Participants were introcued to either Kirk or Bob who angered them with 7 mild electric shocks or treated them neutrally. Particpants then watch a 7 minute film clip of either a prize fight where Kirk Douglas received a beating or an exciting film clip of a track race. Finally, all particiapnts were given a socially sanctioned opportunity to deliver mild electric shocks to either Kirk or Bob.

Results: The greatest number of shocks was administered by the men who had experienced anger arousal, watched the fight and met Kirk.The simple name assocation heightened the cue value for aggressive responses from those who were ready to act aggressively.

Conclusion: The findings support the hypothesis that observed aggression does not necessarily lead to open aggression but that particular targets are more likely to be attacked.

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Evaluation of Berkowitz and Geen

+ Labratory experiments have high controls improving validity and reliability.

+ Improved reliability ~ the results are supported by future experiments in which Berkowitz identified the 'weapons effect', in which it was suggested that if a weapon was present then this would cue more aggressive behaviour.

- Ethical considerations with administering electric shocks and the psychological harm of the participants.

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2.3 Managing aggression in sport

Key Study: Brunelle, Janelle and Tennant (1999)

Aim: To assess the effect of cognitive/behavioural interventions in anger management among male soccer players.

Participants: 57 male participants (mean age=20)

Procedure: Male soccer players enrolled in 2 sport and fitness soccer classes at an American Universirty. Players were selected and distributed among 4 teams in each class based on talent, with the aim of having 4 evenly matched teams that went onto participate in a round robin in 15 games. Participants from the teams were matched with their teamates and randomly assigned to one of the 3 treatment groups (Anger awareness/role-playing/control group). An angry behaviour rating scale and anger inventory were used.

Results: There was not siginificant difference found between groups on pre-treatment anger scores. The role playing and anger awarness groups both displayed less angry behaviour than the control group during the treatment phase. During the retention phase, the role-playing group showed less angry behaviour than the anger awareness group and both experimental groups showed less angry behaviour than the control group.

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Evaluation of Brunelle, Janelle and Tennant

+ High ecological validity because the participants anger was monitored during competitive games.

+ The interventions were shown to be effective in real life and as the study was well controlled it is likely to be generalisable to other similar sports.

+ In common with other studies involving cognitive behavioural treatments.

+ Treatment for anger managment has effective long lasting positive effects.

- Only involved men so cannot be representative to women.

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2. Aggression summary

  • Freudian psychoanalytic approach to aggression as an innate theory was considered. Freud suggested that we have a destructive instinct. He further suggested that we mus release pent-up aggression.
  • In contrast Berowitz's approach was explored as an example of a theory which suggest that aggression is learnt, cues from the environment influencing levels of aggression.
  • Bandura's social learning theory can also be considered here as an approach that may be employed to manage aggression in sport by modelling appropriate behaviour.
  • All theories involve biological and environmental explanations for what causes aggression and how aggression operates in sporting competitions.
  • The problem for sport is that competitiveness and arousal are seen as essential qualities in a sportsperson.
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3. Motivation

Psychologists are in agreement that one of the key aspects of individual differences that predicts success in any field, including sport, is motivation. Motivation is the basic drive for all of our actions. Motivation refers to the synamics of our behaviour, which involves our needs, desires and ambitions in life. It may be defined as 'the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behaviour'.

3.1 Achievement Motivation

3.2 Sports Specific Achievement Motivation

3.3 Techniques of Motivation

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3.1 Achievement Motivation

Key Study ~ McClelland-Atkinson (1953) - Content analysis using thematic apperception test.

Sample: All males. Innumerable imagery responses to thematic apperception Tess were analysed so in fact they were sampling people's thinking.

Procedure: 6 experimental conditions: Relaxed, neutral, achievement orientated, success, failure and success-failure. The measure of motivation was conent analysis of a group thematice apperception test. Subjects were shown standard pictures and asked to write their own stories. The content analysisi was pre-tested by noting systematic differences between subjects who had been deprived of food for 1, 4 and 15 hours.

Achievement (nAch) - the wish to take responsiblity for finding solutions to problems.

Affilication (nAff) - the desire to belong, an enjoyment of teamwork, a concern about interpersonal relationships.

Power (nP) - A drive to control and influence others, a need to win arguments, persuade and prevail.

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Evaluation of McClelland

Results: According to McClelland, the presence of these motives or drives in an individual indicates a predisposition to behave in certain ways. Therefore, from a manager's perspective, recognising which need is dominant in any particular individual affects the way in which that person can be motivated.


+ Ethnocentrism is addressed through cross-cultural research.

- Validity - Why should the number of different references be added rather than all referances to achievement? Should some achievement imagery be weighted more heavily than others?

- Reliability - Projective tests suffer from being highly subjective. However, the use of content analysis with clearly identififed criteria improves the inter-rater reliablity.

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3.2 Sports specific achievement motivation

Key study: Gill and Deeter (1988)

Aim: To develop a multi-dimensional, sport specific measure of individual differences in sport achievement orientation.

Sample: 237 undergraduates at a US university in 1984. Competitive sports activites skill classes and non-competitive sports skill classes. 218 undergraduates enrolled in 1985 in the same categories. High school students randomly selected across grades 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. 126 were classified as competitive sports participants and 140 were classidided as non-particiapants.

Procedure: All 3 samples completed both the sport orientation questionnaire (SOQ) and the work and family Orientation questionnaire (WOFO).

Results:Factor analysis and 3 factors emerged: Competitiveness, the desire to reach personal goals in sport and the desire to win in interpersonal competition in sport. In sampled 1 and 2 there was a significant difference between those those engaged in competitive classes and non-competitive classes on the SOQ results. WOFO results - Males scored higher than females on competiveness and females scored higher than males on work.

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Evaluation of Gill and Deeter

Conclusion: This data provies good evidence that the SOQ is a reliable and valid measure of sport achievement orientation. Some highly competitive individuals who enjoy sport competition and strive for sport achievement may be both win-orientated and goal-orientation but not necessarily so.


+ Checks of content validity, concurrent validity and test-rerest reliability were all conducted.

+ Reults from the 3 samples indicated that the measure is reliable.

+ The study shows a reliable difference between men and women in sport.

+ The SOQ has been used by other researchers, who have validated its use.

- Factor analysis states there is a relationship but it doesn't state why.

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3.3 Techniques of Motivation

Key study: Deci and Ryan (1971)

Aim: To examine the effects of external rewards on intrinsic motivation.

Sample: 24 psychology students fulfilling a course requirement.

Procedure: Participants were randomly allocated to two conditions. The experiments last for 3 one hour sesions on 3 different days. During all 3 sessions students worked on a complex 3D puzzle called Soma. External (monetary) rewards were given to the experimental particiapnts during the second period only, while control participants received no rewards.

Results: When an external reward was introcued at session 2, motivation of the experimental group increased. They spent a higher proportion of time working on the puzzle in session 2 than in session 1. People in the control group spent the same amount of time in the first two sessions. When the rewarded were removed for session motivation in the experimental group it dropped to a level below session 1.

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Evaluation of Deci and Ryan

Conclusion: Even though the difference was not significant, the hypothesis was largely supported. The strength of the experimental effect was obscured by a ceiling effect. Two of the participants spend all 8 minutes in each session on the puzzle.


- In this study the task was so intrinsically motivating that the IV produced no variance. This affects reliability as it could be argued that this shows that the introduction of an external reward does not necessarily affect a persons motivation if they are already sufficiently motivated.

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Summary of Motivtion

  • Motivation is an important aspect of sporting performance. Only those who are highly motivated are likely to be able to put in the sustained effort.
  • People are motivated by the desire to 'master' their sport or through the competitive urge to bear their opponents. Both types of motivation can be intrinsic, but the desire to 'maser' their sport is likely to be dependent on external rewards, such as winning.
  • Motivation can decrease quickly if the individual goes through a phase of not winning.
  • Deci and Ryan proved that spending too much time of external rewards can be counterproductive.
  • The studies are relaibable as they have been replicated both in and outside the sporting field.
  • However, they do not provide any evidence towards the nature/nurture debate/.
  • Extrinsic motivation is definitely situation dependent.
  • There are also individual differences in the extend to which an individual is affected by such external rewards.
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Sport and the Individual Summary

  • Theories and measures of personality have been shown to identify characteristics of successful sports performers, but those characteristics differ depending on the sporting context.
  • Similarly, the research indicates that arousal, aggression and competitiveness are important in sport.
  • However, Brunelle indicated that high aggression levels do not necessarily make for improved performance.
  • Motivational factors are also important in sport. Extrinsically motvational factors are more persusaive because there are winners and losers in sport.
  • Coaches tend to focus on extrinsic motivation because sport is so highly competitive.
  • Deci (1971) has indicated that intrinsic motivation may lead to more sustained improvements to performance than extrinsic rewards.
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As the crowd roars with excitement and tension builds on the field, you take a deep breath and step up to the penalty spot in Penalty Shooters 2, knowing that your shot could make or break the game.



As the crowd roars with excitement and tension builds on the field, you take a deep breath and step up to the penalty spot in Penalty Shooters 2, knowing that your shot could make or break the game.

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