When Do Chronic Differences in Self-Regulation Count?: Regulatory Focus Effects in Easy and Difficult Soccer Tasks

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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Research on regulatory focus theory (Higgins, 1997) suggests that performance increases if instructions fit with sportspersons’ dispositions. Sportspersons who chronically focus on wins (i.e., promotion-oriented individuals) perform best if instructions frame the objective as a promotion goal (e.g., “Try to hit!”). By contrast, sportspersons who chronically focus on losses (i.e., prevention-oriented individuals) perform best if instructions frame the objective as a prevention goal (e.g., “Try not to miss!”). Recent theorizing also suggests that regulatory focus interacts with task difficulty. In an experiment, we assessed soccer performance as a function of chronic focus, instructional focus, and task difficulty. Results support that task difficulty moderates the effects of fit on performance; fitting instructions to match the sportsperson’s chronic regulatory focus improved performance in the easy rather than the difficult task. Findings are discussed regarding the role of regulatory fit in altering subjective pressure during sports performance.

Tobias Vogel and Oliver Genschow are now with the Department of Consumer & Economic Psychology, Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences, University of Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany.

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