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The way athletes prospect future success or failure following a single success or failure is called “generalization”. This study examined the roles of an abstract “why” vs. a concrete “how” processing style on athletes’ generalization to future performances and to their self-concept (N = 668). We hypothesized that athletes in the “why” condition would show more negative/positive generalization. We also explored the impact of how individuals in the “why” condition attributed their success or failure performance. There was no main difference between processing styles but athletes with more functional attributions showed more positive generalization and athletes with more dysfunctional attributions showed more negative generalization. These results show that attributions could be driving the effects of an abstract “why” processing style on generalization. For athletes with an elevated depression score it might be particularly important to focus on generalizations following success and train these athletes to make functional attributions.
Van Lier and Raes are with KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.