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The authors examined athletes’ conformity to teammates’ risky behaviors through a performance-based manipulation paradigm. They hypothesized that athletes who strongly identified with their team would be at increased risk of conforming to teammates’ behaviors. Athletes (N = 379) from 23 intact National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) teams completed surveys (e.g., social identity) and reported the extent to which they would engage in risky behavior scenarios (e.g., drinking and driving). Then, researchers displayed ostensible responses that were manipulated to appear as though teammates reported high engagement in the risky behaviors. Finally, athletes again responded to the hypothetical scenarios and a conformity index was created. Results indicated that social identity, at both individual and group levels, positively predicted conformity—indicating that athletes with stronger social identities are more susceptible to peer influence. Although these findings highlight a pernicious aspect of social identity, they also provide insight into how group-level processes could be leveraged to prevent risky behaviors in student-athletes.
Graupensperger and Evans are with the Dept. of Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA. Benson is with the Dept. of Psychology, Western University, London, ON, Canada.