Activation of Self-Focus and Self-Presentation Traits Under Private, Mixed, and Public Pressure

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Katharina Geukes Ruhr-Universität Bochum
University of Queensland

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Christopher Mesagno University of Ballarat

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Stephanie J. Hanrahan University of Queensland

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Michael Kellmann Ruhr-Universität Bochum
University of Queensland

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Trait activation theorists suggest that situational demands activate traits in (pressure) situations. In a comparison of situational demands of private (monetary incentive, cover story), mixed (monetary incentive, small audience), and public (large audience, video taping) high-pressure situations, we hypothesized that situational demands of private and mixed high-pressure conditions would activate self-focus traits and those of a public high-pressure condition would activate self-presentation traits. Female handball players (N = 120) completed personality questionnaires and then performed a throwing task in a low-pressure condition and one of three high-pressure conditions (n = 40). Increased anxiety levels from low to high pressure indicated successful pressure manipulations. A self-focus trait negatively predicted performance in private and mixed high-pressure conditions, and self-presentation traits positively predicted performance in the public high-pressure condition. Thus, pressure situations differed in their trait-activating situational demands. Experimental research investigating the trait–performance relationship should therefore use simulations of real competitions over laboratory-based scenarios.

Katharina Geukes is with the Faculty of Psychology and with the Faculty of Sport Science, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Bochum, Germany, and the School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Christopher Mesagno is with the School of Health Sciences, University of Ballarat, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. Stephanie J. Hanrahan is with the School of Psychology and with the School of Human Movement Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Michael Kellmann is with the Faculty of Psychology and with the Faculty of Sport Science, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Bochum, Germany, and the School of Human Movement Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

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