Attributions and Performance: An Empirical Test of Kukla's Theory

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David Yukelson North Texas State University

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Robert S. Weinberg North Texas State University

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Stephen West Allen Jackson Florida State University North Texas State University

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The purpose of this investigation was to test Kukla's attributional theory of performance and to address the mediating link between causal attribution and subsequent action in a competitive motor task. Two experiments were conducted: the first was designed to determine the effect of perceived task difficulty and attributional instructions on the ball-tossing performance of high achievers while competing against a standard of excellence. Results indicated that high achievers performed with greater intensity when receiving an effort rather than ability-oriented instructional set and when they perceive themselves to be behind a normative score of their classmates. To refine and clarify results found in Experiment 1, low as well as high achievers were added to the second study and were placed in face-to-face competition instead of a competition against a standard of excellence. Results from the performance data in Experiment 2 supported Kukla's theory in that high achievers performed best when they perceived themselves to be behind an opponent's score midway through the experiment, whereas low achievers performed best when they perceived themselves to be ahead. Results from the cognitive assessment procedure, however, failed to support the performance findings. Implications for the viability of Kukla's attributional theory of performance and problems related to the assessment of cognitive states are discussed.

Special thanks to David Pargman for his helpful comments during the conceptualization of this study. Reprint requests should be sent to David Yukelson, Physical Education Department, North Texas State University, Denton, TX 76203.

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