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Maria Kavussanu and Christopher Ring

In this study, we integrated elements of social cognitive theory of moral thought and action and the social cognitive model of moral identity to better understand doping likelihood in athletes. Participants (N = 398) recruited from a variety of team sports completed measures of moral identity, moral disengagement, anticipated guilt, and doping likelihood. Moral identity predicted doping likelihood indirectly via moral disengagement and anticipated guilt. Anticipated guilt about potential doping mediated the relationship between moral disengagement and doping likelihood. Our findings provide novel evidence to suggest that athletes, who feel that being a moral person is central to their self-concept, are less likely to use banned substances due to their lower tendency to morally disengage and the more intense feelings of guilt they expect to experience for using banned substances.

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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.

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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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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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Ian D. Boardley, Maria Kavussanu and Christopher Ring

This study examined the relationships between athletes’ perceptions of coaching effectiveness, based on the coaching efficacy model, and their effort, commitment, enjoyment, self-efficacy, and prosocial and antisocial behavior in rugby union. Participants were 166 adult male rugby-union players (M age = 26.5, SD = 8.5 years), who completed questionnaires measuring their perceptions of four dimensions of coaching effectiveness as well as their effort, commitment, enjoyment, self-efficacy, and prosocial and antisocial behavior. Regression analyses, controlling for rugby experience, revealed that athletes’ perceptions of motivation effectiveness predicted effort, commitment, and enjoyment. Further, perceptions of technique effectiveness predicted self-efficacy, while perceptions of characterbuilding effectiveness predicted prosocial behavior. None of the perceived coaching effectiveness dimensions were related to antisocial behavior. In conclusion, athletes’ evaluations of their coach’s ability to motivate, provide instruction, and instill an attitude of fair play in his athletes have important implications for the variables measured in this study.

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Ali Al-Yaaribi, Maria Kavussanu and Christopher Ring

The purpose of this experiment was to investigate whether prosocial and antisocial teammate behaviors affect emotions (i.e., happiness, anxiety, anger), attention, and performance. Undergraduate sport and exercise science students (N = 102) were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: prosocial behavior, antisocial behavior, and control. They performed a basketball free-throw shooting task for 2 min in baseline and experimental phases and completed measures of emotions and attention. Free-throw shooting performance was also recorded. A series of analyses of covariances controlling for baseline scores showed that the prosocial group reported more happiness than the antisocial and control groups. The antisocial group reported more anxiety than the prosocial group and more anger and lower attention than the other 2 groups. The prosocial and antisocial groups performed better than the control group. These findings suggest that prosocial and antisocial teammate behaviors may influence the recipient’s emotions, attention, and performance during sport competition.

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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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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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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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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.