The ESPN Effect: How Slam Dunks Affect Individualism and Optimism for Athletic Success

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John H. Kingsbury University of St. Thomas, USA

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John M. Tauer University of St. Thomas, USA

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The authors examined the effects of individualistic media images on children’s levels of optimism toward their future basketball careers. Three hundred sixty-five participants watched highlights featuring either Black or White players performing an easy (passing) or difficult skill (slam dunking). Results indicated that participants placed a higher value on slam dunks when they watched them in a highlight tape. In addition, we found the same interaction on 3 dependent variables, such that those who viewed a same-race model performing passes felt more optimistic about playing both college and professional basketball and higher levels of positive arousal. Given Western society’s individualistic culture, the authors suggest that increased exposure to media images that promote unselfishness and teamwork would be beneficial for young athletes.

Kingsbury is currently a graduate student at Dartmouth College. At the time of data collection, Tauer was his doctoral advisor in the Psychology Dept., University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN 55105.

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