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Moral Identity and Emotion in Athletes

Maria Kavussanu, Adrian Willoughby, and Christopher Ring

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of moral identity on physiological responses to affective pictures, namely, the startle blink reflex and pain-related evoked potential. Male (n = 48) and female (n = 46) athletes participating in contact team sports were randomly assigned to either a moral identity group or a non-moral identity group and viewed a series of unpleasant, neutral, and pleasant sport-specific pictures. During picture viewing, a noxious electrocutaneous stimulus was delivered as the startle probe and the startle blink and pain-related evoked potential were measured. Upon completion of physiological measures, participants reviewed the pictures and rated them for valence and arousal. ANOVAs revealed that participants in the moral identity group displayed larger startle blinks and smaller pain-related potentials than did those in the non-moral identity group across all picture valence categories. However, the difference in the magnitude of startle blinks between the moral and non-moral identity groups was larger in response to unpleasant than pleasant and neutral pictures. Our findings suggest that moral identity affects physiological responses to sport-specific affective pictures, thereby providing objective evidence for the link between moral identity and emotion in athletes.

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Effects of Cooperation and Competition on Performance, Emotion, and Effort: Goal and Means Interdependence

Christopher Ring, Maria Kavussanu, and Andrew Cooke

Social interdependence theory proposes that task structure influences performance via social interaction. Using this framework, we examined sport performance. Fifty-six males performed a basketball task under four conditions: as an individual (individual, perform your best) and as a member of a team of two (cooperation, where teammates sought to better their individual performance; means independent competition, where two teams competed sequentially to outperform the other team; means interdependent competition, where two teams competed simultaneously to outperform the other team). Task performance (points) was better during means independent competition than other conditions. Anxiety and effort peaked during the competitions and enjoyment was greater during competition and cooperation than during the individual condition. Emotions, effort, and actions are discussed as explanations for the performance effects. Social interdependence theory provides a valuable framework to understand emotion, motivation, and performance. Team competition can be used to promote effort and enhance performance in sport.

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The Self-Other Divergence Effect for Doping Likelihood: Mediation by Guilt and Moderation by Moral Agency and Values

Christopher Ring, Maria Kavussanu, and Benjamin Walters

Objectives: Self–other divergence refers to individuals judging themselves to be different from others. The authors investigated doping-related self-other divergence. Design: The authors used a quasi-experimental repeated-measures design to compare the effects of an independent variable (perspective: self, other) on doping likelihood and guilt. Method: Rugby players rated doping likelihood and guilt in situations describing two perspectives: self (their own behavior and feelings) and other (another player’s behavior and feelings). They also completed measures of moral agency, identity, perfectionism, and values (moral traits). Results: Doping likelihood was lower and guilt was higher for self-based ratings compared with other-based ratings. The self–other difference in doping likelihood was mediated by guilt and moderated by moral traits (larger for athletes with higher agency and values). Agency and values were more strongly related to self than other doping likelihood. Conclusions: Other-referenced measures differed from self-referenced measures of doping likelihood and guilt, indicating that it is wrong to presume equivalence of measurement.

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Empathy Inhibits Aggression in Competition: The Role of Provocation, Emotion, and Gender

Nicholas Stanger, Maria Kavussanu, David McIntyre, and Christopher Ring

Although the empathy–aggression relationship has been well documented, research has yet to establish whether emotions mediate and gender moderates this relationship in athletes, under conditions of low and high provocation. In this experiment, we assigned team-sport athletes to either a high (n = 40) or a low (n = 40) empathy group, and asked them to compete in a reaction-time task against a (fictitious) opponent, under conditions of low and high provocation. Empathy reduced aggression (i.e., intensity of electrical shock administered to the opponent) at low provocation in men, and at both low and high provocation in women. Guilt mediated the effect of empathy on aggression at low provocation in men; anger did not mediate any effects of empathy on aggression. Our findings indicate that the inhibitory effect of empathy on aggression and the mediating role of guilt are moderated by provocation and gender.

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The Effects of Individual and Team Competitions on Performance, Emotions, and Effort

Andrew Cooke, Maria Kavussanu, David McIntyre, and Christopher Ring

It is well documented that competition can affect performance and emotion in sport. However, our understanding of the comparative effects of individual and team competitions on performance and emotion is limited. We also know little about emotion-based mechanisms underlying the effects of different types of competition on performance. To address these issues, 64 participants completed a handgrip endurance task during time-trial, one-on-one, two-on-two, and four-on-four competitions while self-report and possible corroborative physiological measures of enjoyment, anxiety, and effort were assessed. Results indicated that performance, enjoyment, anxiety, and effort increased from individual to team competitions. The observed increases in performance were mediated by increased enjoyment and effort. Our findings illustrate differential effects of individual and team competitions on performance and emotion. Moreover, they indicate that both enjoyment-based and anxiety-based mechanisms can explain changes in performance among different types of individual and team competition.

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Bracketed Morality Revisited: How Do Athletes Behave in Two Contexts?

Maria Kavussanu, Ian D. Boardley, Sam S. Sagar, and Christopher Ring

The concept of bracketed morality has received empirical support in several sport studies (e.g., Bredemeier & Shields, 1986a, 1986b). However, these studies have focused on moral reasoning. In this research, we examined bracketed morality with respect to moral behavior in sport and university contexts, in two studies. Male and female participants (Study 1: N = 331; Study 2: N = 372) completed questionnaires assessing prosocial and antisocial behavior toward teammates and opponents in sport and toward other students at university. Study 2 participants also completed measures of moral disengagement and goal orientation in both contexts. In most cases, behavior in sport was highly correlated with behavior at university. In addition, participants reported higher prosocial behavior toward teammates and higher antisocial behavior toward opponents in sport than toward other students at university. The effects of context on antisocial behavior were partially mediated by moral disengagement and ego orientation. Our findings extend the bracketed morality concept to prosocial and antisocial behavior.

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The Effects of Training and Competition on Achievement Goals, Motivational Responses, and Performance in a Golf-Putting Task

Pepijn K.C. van de Pol, Maria Kavussanu, and Christopher Ring

This study examined whether (a) training and competition influence achievement goals, effort, enjoyment, tension, and performance; (b) achievement goals mediate the effects of training and competition on effort, enjoyment, tension, and performance; and (c) the context influences the relationships between goals and effort, enjoyment, tension, and performance. Participants (32 males, 28 females; M age = 19.12 years) performed a golf-putting task in a training condition and a competition condition and completed measures of goal involvement, effort, enjoyment, and tension; putting performance was also measured. Both task and ego involvement varied across training and competition, and variation in ego involvement explained variation in effort and enjoyment between these conditions. Ego involvement positively predicted effort in training and performance in competition, and interacted positively with task involvement to predict effort and enjoyment in competition. Our findings suggest that the distinction between training and competition is a valuable one when examining individuals’ achievement motivation.

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A Moral Intervention Reduces Doping Likelihood in British and Greek Athletes: Evidence From a Cluster Randomized Control Trial

Maria Kavussanu, Philip Hurst, Mariya Yukhymenko-Lescroart, Evangelos Galanis, Ailish King, Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis, and Christopher Ring

Objectives: The authors aimed to develop a moral intervention and to determine whether it was more effective in preventing doping than an educational (i.e., knowledge-based) intervention; their primary outcome was doping likelihood, and the secondary outcomes were moral identity, moral disengagement, moral atmosphere, and anticipated guilt. Methods: Eligible athletes (N = 303) in the United Kingdom and Greece took part in the study. The authors randomly assigned 33 clubs to either the moral or the educational intervention. They measured outcomes pre- and postintervention and at 3- and 6-month follow-up. Results: Athletes in both interventions in both countries reported lower doping likelihood and moral disengagement and higher guilt from pre- to postintervention. These effects were maintained at the 3- and 6-month follow-ups. There were no effects on moral identity or moral atmosphere. Conclusions: In addition to disseminating information about doping, doping prevention programs should include content that focuses on moral variables.