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Participation in Sport and Moral Functioning: Does Ego Orientation Mediate Their Relationship?

Maria Kavussanu and Nikos Ntoumanis

This study examined whether participation in contact sports influences moral functioning within the sport context, and whether these effects are mediated by ego orientation; the role of task orientation on moral functioning was also examined. Participants (N = 221) were college athletes participating in basketball, soccer, field hockey, and rugby. They completed questionnaires assessing sport participation, goal orientations, moral functioning, and social desirability. Structural equation modeling analysis indicated that participation in contact sports positively predicted ego orientation, which in turn predicted low levels of moral functioning. The direct effects of sport participation on moral functioning became nonsignificant in the presence of ego orientation, indicating that the latter construct mediates the relationship between the first two variables. Task orientation corresponded to high levels of moral functioning. These findings help us further understand the processes operating in contact sports and are discussed in terms of their implications for eliminating unsportspersonlike conduct from the sport context.

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The Effects of Goal Involvement on Moral Behavior in an Experimentally Manipulated Competitive Setting

Luke Sage and Maria Kavussanu

In this experiment we examined the effects of task and ego involvement on three measures of moral behavior—prosocial choice, observed prosocial behavior, and observed antisocial behavior—in a competitive setting. We also investigated sex differences in moral behavior. Male (n = 48) and female (n = 48) college students were randomly assigned to a task-involving, an ego-involving, or a control condition. Participants played two 10-min games of table soccer and completed measures of prosocial choice, goal involvement, goal orientation, and demographics. The two games were recorded, and frequencies of prosocial and antisocial behavior were coded. Players assigned to the task-involving condition were higher in prosocial choice than those in the ego-involving or control conditions. Individuals in the ego-involving condition displayed more antisocial behaviors than those in the task-involving or control conditions. Finally, females displayed more prosocial behaviors than males.

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Exercise and Optimism: Are Highly Active Individuals More Optimistic?

Maria Kavussanu and Edward McAuley

The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between reported physical activity and optimism. A secondary purpose was to determine whether physical self-efficacy and trait anxiety mediate the relationship between exercise and optimism. Participants (N = 188) were administered a battery of questionnaires assessing optimism, pessimism, physical self-efficacy, trait anxiety, and extent and nature of involvement in physical activity. Demographic information was also collected. The results indicated that high active individuals were significantly more optimistic and less pessimistic than inactive/low active individuals. In addition, the moderately and high active groups reported significantly higher physical self-efficacy and lower trait anxiety than the inactive/low active group. Hierarchical regression analyses indicated that trait anxiety and physical self-efficacy accounted for significant unique variation in optimism. The findings are consistent with previous research indicating that optimists engage in exercise significantly more often than pessimists.

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Moral Functioning in Sport: An Achievement Goal Perspective

Maria Kavussanu and Glyn C. Roberts

This study examined the role of achievement goals on indices of moral functioning (i.e., moral judgment, intention and behavior), unsportsmanlike attitudes, and judgments about the legitimacy of intentionally injurious acts in college basketball players. Male (n = 56) and female (n = 143) athletes completed questionnaires assessing the aforementioned variables. Multivariate analysis of variance revealed significant differences according to gender on the variables of interest. Specifically, male athletes reported higher ego orientation, lower task orientation, lower levels of moral functioning, and greater approval of unsportsmanlike behaviors, and they were more likely than females to judge injurious acts as legitimate. For the female sample, canonical correlation analysis indicated the presence of a significant but weak relationship between goal orientations and the set of moral variables. Higher ego orientation was related to lower levels of the judgment and intention indices of moral functioning and greater acceptance of intentionally injurious acts. Although this relationship was significant, the strength of the association between the two sets of variables accounted for only 9% of the variance in the set of moral variables.

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Development and Validation of the Moral Disengagement in Sport Scale

Ian D. Boardley and Maria Kavussanu

A sport-specific measure of moral disengagement was developed in 2 studies. In Study 1, a 59-item questionnaire was developed and tested with 308 athletes from 5 team sports. A series of confirmatory factor analyses (CFA) testing different models suggested the model that best fitted the data had 6 first-order factors that could be represented by 1 second-order factor. Study 2 involved 305 athletes from the same 5 sports. CFA confirmed the 6-factor, second-order structure for the final 32-item measure. Results from Study 2 supported the construct validity of the scale, providing evidence for the factorial, concurrent, convergent, and discriminant validity. The Moral Disengagement in Sport Scale (MDSS) is proposed as a valid and reliable measure of moral disengagement for use in the sport context.

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Motivation in Physical Activity Contexts: The Relationship of Perceived Motivational Climate to Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Efficacy

Maria Kavussanu and Glyn C. Roberts

This study examined the relationship between perceived motivational climate and intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy and determined the role of goal orientation and perceived motivational climate in predicting intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy. College students (N = 285) enrolled in beginning tennis classes completed a battery of questionnaires assessing perceived motivational climate, goal orientation, intrinsic motivation, self-efficacy, and perceived ability. Perceptions of mastery climate were positively associated with enjoyment, effort, perceived competence, and self-efficacy and were inversely related to tension. In males, dispositional goal orientation and perceived motivational climate emerged as equally important predictors of intrinsic motivation, while mastery motivational climate was the only significant predictor of self-efficacy. In females, performance motivational climate was the strongest predictor of intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy. Perceived normative ability accounted for a substantial amount of unique variance in intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy in both males and females. The motivational implications of the findings are discussed, and directions for future research are provided.

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The Prosocial and Antisocial Behavior in Sport Scale

Maria Kavussanu and Ian D. Boardley

This research aimed to (a) develop a measure of prosocial and antisocial behavior in sport, (b) examine its invariance across sex and sport, and (c) provide evidence for its discriminant and concurrent validity. We conducted two studies. In study 1, team sport athletes (N = 1,213) recruited from 103 teams completed questionnaires assessing demographics and prosocial and antisocial behaviors in sport. Factor analyses revealed two factors representing prosocial behavior and two factors representing antisocial behavior. The model had a very good fit to the data and showed configural, metric, and scalar invariance across sex and sport. The final scale consisted of 20 items. In Study 2, team-sport athletes (N = 106) completed the scale and measures of empathy and goal orientation. Analyses provided support for the discriminant and concurrent validity of the scale. In conclusion, the new scale can be used to measure prosocial and antisocial behaviors in team sport.

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Effects of Goal Orientation and Perceived Value of Toughness on Antisocial Behavior in Soccer: The Mediating Role of Moral Disengagement

Ian David Boardley and Maria Kavussanu

In this study, we examined (a) the effects of goal orientations and perceived value of toughness on antisocial behavior toward opponents and teammates in soccer and (b) whether any effects were mediated by moral disengagement. Male soccer players (N = 307) completed questionnaires assessing the aforementioned variables. Structural equation modeling indicated that ego orientation had positive and task orientation had negative direct effects on antisocial behavior toward opponents. Further, ego orientation and perceived value of toughness had indirect positive effects on antisocial behavior toward opponents and teammates which were mediated by moral disengagement. Collectively, these findings aid our understanding of the effects of personal influences on antisocial behavior and of psychosocial mechanisms that could facilitate such antisocial conduct in male soccer players.

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Executive Function Is Associated With Antisocial Behavior and Aggression in Athletes

Martina Micai, Maria Kavussanu, and Christopher Ring

Poor executive function has been linked to increased antisocial and aggressive behavior in clinical and nonclinical populations. The present study investigated the relationship between executive and nonexecutive cognitive function and antisocial behavior in sport as well as reactive and proactive aggression. Cognitive function was assessed in young adult male and female athletes using the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB). Antisocial behavior in sport and aggression were assessed via self-report instruments and were found to be positively correlated. Executive function (but not nonexecutive function) scores were negatively correlated with both self-reported antisocial behavior and aggression in males but not females. Our findings suggest that prefrontal deficits among male athletes could contribute to poor impulse control and difficulty in anticipating the consequences of their antisocial and aggressive behavior.

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Put Yourself in Their Boots: Effects of Empathy on Emotion and Aggression

Nicholas Stanger, Maria Kavussanu, and Christopher Ring

Aggression has been linked to empathy and emotions (e.g., guilt) in cross-sectional studies. The purpose of this experiment was to examine the effects of empathy on emotional reactions to aggression and the role of guilt in the empathy–aggression relationship. Seventy-one undergraduate sport and exercise science students with a mean age of 19.56 (SD = 1.94) years were randomly assigned to either a high- or a low-empathy group. We experimentally manipulated empathy using perspective taking instructions and examined the following: (a) participants’ emotional reactions to images of aggressive acts; (b) their reported likelihood to aggress in a hypothetical sport situation; and (c) the extent to which they anticipated feeling guilt if they were to engage in an aggressive act. Participants in the high-empathy group experienced stronger negative emotional reactions to images of aggressive acts and reported lower likelihood to aggress than did those in the low-empathy group. Anticipated guilt partially mediated the effects of empathy on reported likelihood to aggress. Our findings suggest that empathy may help reduce aggressive behavior and highlight the potential mediating role of guilt.