Winners' and Losers' Attributions for Success and Failure in a Series of Athletic Events

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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  • 1 Michigan State University
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Boys who participated in a series of athletic events as part of their activities at an overnight camp evaluated the importance of possible causes for success and failure in these events. These reasons included the four traditional attributions of ability, effort, luck and task difficulty, and other attributions suggested in previous person-perception studies of the causes of outcomes in achievement-related tasks. The results indicated the following: (a) two of the traditional attributions (luck and difficulty) were perceived as having little importance, (b) success was attributed to internal factors whereas failure was attributed to external factors, (c) the differences between the winners and losers provided little evidence for the presence of a self-serving bias in their evaluations of the items, and (d) the differences between actors and observers were not entirely consistent with the hypothesis that actors attribute outcomes to situational factors and observers attribute the same outcomes to dispositional factors. These results are discussed in light of possible confounds in the experimental design and previous attribution research in sport.

The authors of this paper are indebted to the staff, the campers, the campers' parents and the directors of De La Salle Camp, Jackson's Point, Ontario, Canada-particularly Brother Raymond Bensette, Jim and Melissa Costigan, and Phil D'Ornelas. John Paul McKinney, Ellen A. Strommen and Daniel R. Gould made many helpful comments to earlier drafts of this paper. Reprint requests should be sent to William Bukowski, Jr., Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.

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