Open-Ended Attributions in Team Competition

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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A total of 352 open-ended attributions were obtained in two field studies with volleyball teams and in two lab experiments, all involving team competition. All attributions were classified along the three causal dimensions of locus of causality, stability, and controllability. Attributions were also classified as referring to the self, to teammates, to the team as a whole, or to other factors and sorted into specific categories. A loglinear analysis revealed that attributions were predominantly internal, unstable, and controllable. A significant win/loss effect reflected the tendency for members of winning teams to use controllable, and particularly unstable, controllable, attributions more than members of losing teams. Overwhelmingly, attributions referred to the team as a whole rather than to individuals or other factors, and teamwork was an especially popular causal explanation. The findings suggest that research on attributions in team competition should focus on causal dimensions rather than the four traditional attributions of effort, ability, luck, and task difficulty, and that further attention should be given to team-referent causal explanations.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Diane L. Gill, Department of Physical Education and Dance, Halsey Gym, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242.

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