Who Takes Risks in High-Risk Sport?: The Role of Alexithymia

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology

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Matthew BarlowBangor University

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Tim WoodmanBangor University

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Caradog ChapmanBangor University

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Matthew MiltonBangor University

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Daniel StoneBangor University

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Tom DoddsBangor University

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Ben AllenBangor University

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People who have difficulty identifying and describing their emotions are more likely to seek out the experience of emotions in the high-risk domain. This is because the high-risk domain provides the experience of more easily identifiable emotions (e.g., fear). However, the continued search for intense emotion may lead such individuals to take further risks within this domain, which, in turn, would lead to a greater likelihood of experiencing accidents. Across three studies, we provide the first evidence in support of this view. In Study 1 (n = 762), alexithymia was associated with greater risk taking and a greater propensity to experience accidents and close calls. In Study 2 (n = 332) and Study 3 (n = 356), additional bootstrapped mediation models confirmed these relationships. The predictive role of alexithymia remained significant when controlling for sensation seeking (Study 1) and anhedonia (Study 2 and Study 3). We discuss the practical implications of the present model as they pertain to minimizing accidents and close calls in the high-risk domain.

Matthew Barlow, Tim Woodman, Caradog Chapman, Matthew Milton, Daniel Stone, Tom Dodds, and Ben Allen are with Institute for the Psychology of Elite Performance, Bangor University, Gwynedd, UK. Address author correspondence to Matthew Barlow at m.barlow@bangor.ac.uk.

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