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Higgins’ (1987) self-discrepancy theory holds that certain emotions occur as a result of discrepancies between pairs of psychological entities called self-guides. The present study explored self-discrepancies in self-confidence in relation to performance and cognitive anxiety. Slalom canoeists (n = 81) reported ideal, ought, and feared levels of self-confidence 3 hours before a national ranking slalom tournament. Within a half-hour of the start of the race, canoeists reported their actual self-confidence and cognitive anxiety levels. Hierarchical multiple-regression analyses revealed that self-discrepancies predicted significantly more performance variance than actual self-confidence alone. Additionally, hierarchical multiple-regression analyses revealed that, contrary to the specific predictions of self-discrepancy theory, ideal and feared discrepancies (not “ought” and “feared” discrepancies) significantly predicted cognitive anxiety. Additional findings, implications, and directions for further research into the nature of the self in sport are discussed.
The authors are with the School of Sport, Health, and Exercise Sciences, University of Wales Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2DG, U.K.