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Ambiguity of Outcome and Causal Attributions

Kevin S. Spink and Glyn C. Roberts

Previous research in the attributional analysis of individuals involved in athletic settings has typically used objective outcome as the primary determinant of causal attributions. Recent theorizing has suggested that objective outcome may not be the most adequate way of defining success and failure. Rather, success and failure may be more aptly described in terms of an individual's subjective perception of the implications of outcome for desirable personal qualities, especially ability. A field study was conducted to assess the effects of perceived outcome on the causal attributions of racquetball players. Prior to participating in a competitive two-person racquetball game, individuals indicated their expectancy of success against their opponent. Following the game, individuals rated their performance satisfaction, own competency, their opponent's competency, as well as rating the extent to which the outcome was due to internal or external factors. The results showed that the clearly perceived outcomes were attributed internally, while the ambiguous outcomes were attributed externally. The finding suggests that objective outcome may not be the best determinant of success and failure causal attributions.

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Causal Attributions in Sport: Some Theoretical Implications

Glyn C. Roberts and Debbie Pascuzzi

Previous sport attribution studies have generally asked subjects to make attributions for outcomes to the four elements of ability, effort, luck, and task difficulty. These studies have assumed that these elements are the most important causes of outcomes. The present study tested this assumption. An open-ended questionnaire was given to 349 male and female subjects to determine the causal elements used in sport situations. Results showed that the four traditional elements of ability, effort, luck, and task difficulty were used 45% of the time. However, the theory advocated by Weiner (1974) is based on the dimensions of locus of control and stability, and not on the elements per se. When the responses of subjects were content analyzed for dimensional properties, it was concluded that 100% of the responses could be placed within the four cells of the Weiner model. These results support the applicability of the Weiner achievement behavior model to sport environments, but only when careful analysis of causal attributions is made to determine their dimensional relevance. The evidence suggests that situationally relevant elements be included in addition to the traditional elements of ability, effort, luck, and task difficulty.

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Goal Orientations and Perceptions of the Sport Experience

Marc R. Lochbaum and Glyn C. Roberts

Nicholas (1984a, 1984b, 1989) conceptual framework was used to study the relationship between two implicit goal orientations (task and ego) and achievement behaviors. This study examined the relationship between the goal orientations and (a) beliefs concerning determinants of success, (b) competition and practice strategies, (c) practice benefits, and (d) enjoyment. Subjects were 182 male and 114 female high school athletes who competed in at least one sport during the 1989–1990 school year. Factor analyses were conducted to determine the composition of the relevant factors. Ten factors emerged. Canonical analysis was employed to determine the relationship between goal orientations and the 10 subscales. The results, consistent with the hypotheses, showed that athletes with a task orientation focused on adaptive achievement strategies whereas athletes with an ego orientation focused on potentially maladaptive achievement strategies. The implications of the results to sport participation are discussed.

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Contextual Influences on Moral Functioning of College Basketball Players

Maria Kavussanu, Glyn C. Roberts, and Nikos Ntoumanis

The purpose of this study was to examine the role of moral atmosphere and perceived performance motivational climate on moral functioning of college basketball players and to determine the relationship between moral atmosphere and perceived performance motivational climate. A total of 199 athletes participated in the study. Structural equation modeling was used to examine the interrelationships among the variables of interest. Athletes’ perceptions of the moral atmosphere of their team had a significant effect on moral functioning, while the effect of performance motivational climate on moral functioning was not significant. Perceptions of a performance motivational climate were positively associated with the moral atmosphere of the team. Implications of the findings for eliminating unsportspersonlike conduct in the sport realm are discussed.

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Orthogonality of Achievement Goals and Its Relationship to Beliefs about Success and Satisfaction in Sport

Glyn C. Roberts, Darren C. Treasure, and Maria Kavussanu

The present study examined the relationship between dispositional achievement goal orientations and satisfaction and beliefs about success in sport. Participants were 333 students who were administered the Perception of Success Questionnaire (POSQ) (Roberts & Balague, 1989,1991; Roberts, Treasure, & Balague, 1995), Beliefs about Success, and Satisfaction/Interest/Boredom Questionnaires (Duda & Nicholls, 1992). Consistent with theory (Nicholls, 1984, 1989) and previous research, task and ego goal orientations were found to be orthogonal. Following an extreme group split of the task and ego subscales of the POSQ, results of a 2 X 2 (High/Low Ego; High/Low Task) multivariate analyses of variance revealed a significant interaction effect between task and ego orientation. Specifically, participants high in ego and low in task orientation believed effort to be less a cause of success while high tasMow ego-oriented individuals were the least likely to attribute success to external factors. The findings are discussed in terms of their motivational implications for athletes.

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Influence of Variability in Motivation and Affect on Elite Athlete Burnout Susceptibility

Pierre-Nicolas Lemyre, Darren C. Treasure, and Glyn C. Roberts

Forty-four elite swimmers (F = 19, M = 25) participated in the present study designed to examine shifts along the self-determined motivation continuum, as well as swings in negative and positive affect, to predict susceptibility to athlete burnout. Each week the participants were asked to record positive and negative affect states. Swimmers’ affect swing was calculated using mean intraindividual standard deviation scores as an indicator of intraindividual variance. Every third week the athletes’ level of self-determined motivation to participate in swimming was compiled on a self-determination index. A motivational trend slope for the whole season was computed for each swimmer. Results indicated that shifts in the quality of motivation were reliable predictors of all burnout dimensions. In addition, results of the regression analyses showed that swimmers experiencing increased variability in negative affect were more at risk for burnout. These two psychological constructs reliably predicted burnout potential in elite swimmers.

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Motivational Factors and Coping Strategies of Norwegian Paralympic and Olympic Winter Sport Athletes

Anne Marte Pensgaard, Glyn C. Roberts, and Holger Ursin

This study aimed to compare individual and situational motivational factors and the use of coping strategies among elite athletes with and without physical disabilities. Participants were Norwegian athletes from the 1994 Winter Olympics (n = 69) and Paralympics (n = 30) at Lillehammer. Quantitative data came from questions concerning expectations and satisfactions, and three instruments (Perception of Success Questionnaire, Perceived Motivational Climate Questionnaire, and the COPE Inventory). Qualitative data came from interviews. MANOVA analyses revealed that Paralympic and Olympic athletes had similar motivational profiles, but the Paralympic athletes perceived a more mastery-oriented climate, F(1, 98) = 12.6, p < .001. Both groups used similar types of coping strategies, except that Olympic athletes employed more redefinition and growth strategies, F(1, 97) = 6.72, p < .01. Paralympic athletes were also significantly more satisfied with effort and results. Paralympic and Olympic athletes were significantly different on only 4 of 11 variables.

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An Analysis of Motivation in Children's Sport: The Role of Perceived Competence in Participation

Glyn C. Roberts, Douglas A. Kleiber, and Joan L. Duda

This study investigated the relationship of sport participation to perceived competence. Perceived competence is considered to be an important determinant of achievement motivation and behavior. Male and female fourth and fifth graders (N = 143) were given Harter's (Note 1) Perceived Competence Scales and were interviewed to determine their involvement in organized sport activities. Further, the children were asked to give their perceptions of competence relative to teammates, general attributions about sport outcomes, and their persistence and expectancies of future success. The results revealed that participants in organized sports were higher in perceived competence, were more persistent, and had higher expectations of future success. The causal attributions of participant children were ability oriented and generally supported the perceived competence findings. The results are consistent with the statement that perceived competence in physical skills has an important influence on the participation and motivation of children in sport contexts.

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Clarifying Misconceptions and Misrepresentations in Achievement Goal Research in Sport: A Response to Harwood, Hardy, and Swain

Darren C. Treasure, Joan L. Duda, Howard K. Hall, Glyn C. Roberts, Carol Ames, and Martin L. Maehr

In a recent article, Harwood, Hardy, and Swain (2000) presented what they termed a critical analysis of the conceptualization and measurement of achievement goals in sport. The purpose of the present article is to challenge their interpretation of achievement goal theory and to question many of their subsequent recommendations. Specifically, the present response will focus on Harwood et al.’s (a) interpretation of Nicholls’ personal theories of achievement; (b) their contention that task involvement cannot exist in competitive sport; (c) the proposed tripartite conceptualization of goal involvement states; (d) their understanding of the relationship between the way an individual conceptualizes ability and the foundation of dispositional goal orientations; and (e) their criticisms of the way dispositional goal orientations have been measured in sport. Theoretical frameworks are always a work in progress. To this end, we concur with the spirit of Harwood et al.’s article which implies that our conceptual models should be continuously questioned, tested, and extended. However, we believe their interpretation and recommendations do little to enhance our conceptual understanding of achievement goal theory in sport.