Sport and Exercise psychology

Our assignment is based upon personality, behaviour and how they affect sports performance. This essay will cover all of the personality theories and examples of them in sporting situations; it will also cover the various measures of personality and how they can predict performance in sport. It will also define and identify the main causes of aggression.

Personality theories

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Personality is the study of human differences/human diversity. It is a set of characteristics that contribute to an individual’s uniqueness. Our personality describes how we behave and what decisions we make within a game situation.

Sheldon’s Constitutional theories (1942)

One of the first attempts at a theory of personality was Sheldon’s constitutional theory, which related personality to soma type. Sheldon believed that different body shapes created different personalities.

Endomorph – sociable, friendly, fun loving

Mesmomorph – Outgoing, confident, risk taking, adventure loving

Ectomorph – Tense, shy, introverted, socially inhibited

This theory had gathered some folklore validity in that we use our first impressions to make assumptions about peoples personalities. We use things such as physique, clothing, hairstyle, tattoos and other types of visual information to make an assessment upon what a person will be like and in what way they will behave. Within sport certain body types are attracted to different sports as their body type may make them successful in that particular sport. For example within sport long distance runner tend to be more of a ectomorph structure and we could see them as being shy and introverted as many of the hours training are spent alone and on an individual basis. Footballers and rugby players are predominantly mesmomorphic due to amount of physical contact their sport requires. These people tend to be extroverted and group centred. Shot putters are usually of an endomorph build in order to get maximum power from their throw.

Trait theory

Trait theory is based on the idea of someone’s personality being the sum of several traits that cause an individual to behave in a certain manner. These traits can be seen as being enduring and consistent behaviours across a range of situations. This means that we will always act the same in each situation due to our genetics and our inherited traits. These traits could then be used to predict how a person would behave in any given situation. For example in football if the one team had a player who was easily wound up and the other team new this from past experiences then they could predict how he would react to being wound up and they could try to get him sent off, Robbie Savage is often using this to exploit the opposition.

Hans Eysencks personality inventory (1965)

Eysenck used a questionnaire to assess personality through two different dimensions. He called the four areas “types” and highlighted the typical traits each type could exhibit. Morgan and Costil (1972) used Eysencks research and found that long distance runners were mainly introverted and Eysenck (1982) found that extrovert proffered things such as football, which were faster, and more action occurred.

Hollanders view of personality

This is s a combination of behavioural and cognitive methods of assessment. He stated that personality is structured in three levels.

Level 1 – The psychological core

He stated that this level is the real “you”. An individuals beliefs, attitudes values and feelings of self worth. This core can be hidden by and individual to hide insecurities. For example professional footballers may seem completely different people off the field. Some people, are happy to show their inner core whilst others try to hide it. You can only assess a persons psychological core by seeing them in a variety of different situation and understanding their thoughts and emotions.

Level 2 – Typical responses

This is how we usually respond to a situation suggesting that we are relatively consistent in the way in which we behave. It is often similar to how someone else would view your personality and describe you. If we have to describe our own or another’s personality we would usually give labels to their typical responses for example:

Tiger Woods- calm, laid back, even tempered, for example whilst playing in a major championship such as the open he needs to be extremely relaxed in order to get the bets possible contact with the ball.

Roy Keane – aggressive, competitive, for example whilst on the pitch he has a win at all costs mentally which means he always wants the best for his team.

Paul Gascoigne – extroverted, happy-go-lucky, sociable, however this can hinder the team’s performance sometimes as his winning mentality may not be the same as Roy Keanes.

Level 3 – Role related behaviour

This sates that our behaviour changes to suit the situation we are in. Some people play roles to hide their psychological core. Others personality completely changes. In sport some people act differently to for example winning a competition, some may be have a more mute celebration. This could be witnessed by Goran Ivanisevic’s reaction to winning Wimbledon in 2001, compared with the more muted celebration of Pete Sampras

Level 4

This is when the personality constantly changes depending upon the situation that is being faced. An example of this could be a premiership footballer who tends to be quite introverted but lets his emotions get the better of him due to a decision by the referee.

Social learning theory

Social learning theory takes the view that personality is determined by the environment and also the experiences a person has as they grow up and mature. People behave or respond to situations how they have learnt to behave or observed others doing so. There are 2 processes of social learning theory.

Modelling/observation (Bandura). – This states that we observe and imitate the behaviour of significant others in our lives. Parents, friends, teachers, sports starts are our main role models.

For example children may try and copy David Beckham, by him setting a good example children will follow. However some children may see someone like Wayne Rooney swearing all the time and copy him thinking that they are cool.

Type A and B personality

Within sports there tends to be two different types of personalities type A and B. Type A personalities tend to exhibit the following traits: They are highly competitive, achievement orientated, aggressive, restless, impatient, eat fast, walk fast, talk fast, and experience high levels of stress. Type B personalities tend to exert the following traits: they are less competitive, more relaxed, delegate work easily, take time to complete their tasks, calm, laid back, patient, experience low levels of stress. Most people exhibit a balance of he two types of personalities

Cattells 16 personality factors

This developed a test of 187 statements, which aimed to assess personality in 16 key areas (personality traits). These results would then be plotted on a chart to give a personality profile. This theory was also used to compare different groups of athletes. These athletes who were at the top of their game were found to be unstable and neurotic compared to normal people.

Profile of mood states (POMS)

The profile of mood states was used by sports psychologists to measure the moods of top sports people and unsuccessful sports people. Using this for selection can be dangerous because they can be so changeable. It was found that the successful athletes had an “iceberg” profile because all moods except anger and vigour are lower than unsuccessful sports people. Elite athletes seem to have more anger and vigour due to the team games they tend to participate in and their desire to win. This could be linked to a player like Roy Keane who has high traits of anger and vigour due to him wanting to win at all costs.

Social reinforcement

This is when the behaviour is rewarded positively as this is more than likely to get good behaviour repeated. Whereas behaviour negatively rewarded is less likely to be repeated for example a sin bin in sports games teaches a player not to act as he did before. Being told off by your teacher would also have this effect as you no not to do it again. An example of this could be a manger such as Alex Ferguson who has to work and watch youngsters progress through the ranks, if he can install certain traits into them at an early age then it would benefit them both.

The interactional approach

This approach considers both the person’s psychological traits and the situation that they are faced with as equal predictors of behaviour.

Behaviour = (personality + environment)

Both aspects must be analysed before behaviour can be established.

For example an athlete who exhibited high anxiety levels as a personality trait would then have an exaggerated response to a specific situation.

Aggression in sport

Aggression is outside the rules of the game and is the deliberate or verbal behaviour with the intent to cause harm, injure or cause pain to another performer. It is used by a person to release inner frustration (catharsis) in an explosion of tension. Within sporting situations a certain degree of aggression is vital to get a maximum performance. For example being able to win a 50-50 challenge in football. It can also be used to intimidate the other opponents for example Robbie Savage. Aggression can be seen as the will to win. There are many causes of aggression they include: revenge, frustration, pressure, intimidate, rivalry, losing and others around you such as the crowd can also play a huge part. An example of a player who uses a lot of aggression would be Roy Keane who opposition players may be intimidated of.

Theories of aggression

1. Instinct theory – this theory says that people have an instinctive or inborn need or tendency to be aggressive. This is based on the work of Sigmund Freud in the early twentieth century. He said that a man has 2 basic needs to be aggressive and to have sex. He saw aggression as an innate instinct to ensure survival of human beings. An example of this could be someone who specifically plays football on the week end to release aggression.

2. Frustration theory – this states that aggression is a direct result of frustration that has built up due to failure or blockage of goal. An example of this could be a footballer reacting to what he feels was an unfair decision.

3. Social learning theory – this theory states that aggression is learnt from modelling behaviour rather than been an inborn instinct. Social learning theory is a very convincing theory as it shows the levels in aggression are accompanied by rises in violence in society. For example a boxing match may have a cathartic effect on some supporters and will cause an aggressive response in others.

Types of aggression

Reactive – (hostile)

This is a response involving anger to an individual purely fro the satisfaction of inflicting pain or harming them. For example striking a player with only the intention to harm or injure them.

Instrumental

This is causing harm or injury to an opponent in which it has an aim to achieve, dominance or a point or goal. For example taking out a player in football with no intention of playing safely, this could be used to intimidate the opponent. This could be used to set the tone for the rest of the game an intimidate people.

Assertion

This is the use of legitimate force, energy and effort to achieve the purpose wit in intent to cause harm. Assertion is within the rules of the games. There is a fine line between assertion and aggression. For example going into a challenge hard is not necessarily being aggressive. Just used for intimidation and to let the opponent know that you are fully committed to the challenge.

Grey area of ambiguity

Theories of aggression

1. Instinct theory – this theory states that it is human nature to be aggressive and that all people have an instinctive, inborn need or tendency to be aggressive. This theory is based on the work of Sigmund Freud; he said that men had two basic needs, the need to be aggressive and the need to have sex. He saw aggression as an instinct in order to survive. For example within football some players tend to always be aggressive as it is naturally part of their nature e.g. Roy Keane

2. Frustration-aggression theory – This states that aggression is a direct result of frustration that has built up die to a failure or blocking of their goal. This theory claimed that frustration would always produce aggression. This could be witnessed in football as some players become easily frustrated and wound up and usually end up been dismissed from the field of play.

3. Social learning theory – This theory states that aggression is learnt through modelling and observing behaviour rather than been an inborn instinct. For example small children who see how adults behave will automatically try and copy their behaviour be it good or bad. If a child saw their footballing idol do something, which resulted in them, been sent off then they are more than likely going to try and do the same.

How to control aggression

Too much aggression within sport can be a bad thing. Players who often go over the top are not very useful although other players use a certain amount of aggression in order to reach their peak performance however their aggression is controlled. Anger management could be an option in order to control their inner frustration and channel it in other methods. By giving someone an important role within a team would make them maintain their discipline and show a key role and example to others. For example making someone captain would make them wants to set a standard and keep their captaincy. If a player was repeatedly going over the top in game situation then they could be dropped from the team and made to fight for their place. Giving players non-aggressive role models so they no the standard to achieve.