Unit 3 sport & exercise psychology

Andrew Ross

The effects of personality, motivation and aggression on sports performance


Personality - The combination or characteristics which make up how an individual behaves.

There are 2 personality types; type A and type B. People with a type A personality will be extroverts; they will generally be loud and excitable. Extroverts usually excel in team sports, they will be more aggressive and confrontational which can be either good or bad in a sporting environment depending on whether they can use this aggression in a positive way by channelling it into their game for example a rugby player could channel their aggression into a tackle however I they were not adept at using they're aggression in a positive way they could start a fight with the opposition or perform some form of gamesmanship. As a general rule introverts will be better suited to individual sports and extroverts will be better suited to team sports due to their outgoing, sociable behaviour.

People with a type B personalities will be much more tolerant towards others meaning that they could be better teammates at times however they will not be leaders like individuals with type A personalities, who will be far less tolerant of others. This means that a team with little or no type A personalities on them will not have a leader so they may not perform as well as they could have. A good example of this is the 2013-2014 Newcastle United team which lacked a leader on the pitch and therefore had a very poor season, finishing far below than expected when looking at the calibre of the players in the squad. It is also important in team sports to have individuals with type B personalities on the team as they can help to bring the team together and can make excellent role players.

An individual with a type A personality will also have stronger urge for competition which will naturally draw them to sport, they also have a lack of patience compared to individuals who have type B personalities who will be reflective and relaxed as well as being more creative and having lower anxiety levels.

Marten's Schematic View - This theory states that there are 3 aspects of ones personality which are related to each other, these are the psychological core, typical responses and role related behaviour.

Psychological core is the traits, beliefs, values, attitudes and interests which determines the core of your personality. These factors are usually relatively stable and consistent.

Typical responses are the general way in which you are and which you are expected so react to a situation for example if you score a goal or win a game in a certain sport you will normally celebrate and be happy.

Role-related behaviour is determined by which situation you are in. It changes depending on what role you are in and it is the most changeable aspect of your personality. A good example of this could be the basketball player John Wall who's role completely changes from when he is playing with his team as opposed to when he is playing for his country. He is the best player on his team in the NBA and he is expected to take the biggest shots and to lead the team on and off court. However when he is playing for Team USA he is a role player; he comes off the bench for a few minutes per game and provides energy on the court and to follow direct instructions from his teammates and coach.

Social Learning theory - (Bandura) This theory states that you learn from the action of those around you. A good example of this is that when a child sees a player in the Premier League diving in a football game and not getting punished for it they will begin to find it socially acceptable; this means that they will start to do it themselves. This links into operant conditioning - the theory that and individual's personality can be changed and tweaked by rewarding good behaviour and damaging poor behaviour. A good example of this is when a basketball player repeatedly makes bad decisions on the ball then the coach will punish them by putting them on the bench. If they keep taking a shot which usually goes in and is a good shot choice then there coach will verbally praise them. By doing both of these it will not only help to improve their overall game and performance but it will also help motivate them and increase arousal meaning that they should perform better.

Psychodynamic theory - Psychodynamic theory tries to understand an individual's personality as a whole rather than looking at it in individual parts. It does not generally tend to focus on relating to an athlete's environment .This theory that states that personality is made up of conscious and unconscious parts. The first part is called ID (Instinctive drive) which is the unconscious part of your personality meaning that it makes you do things without actually thinking about doing them. For example when a runner in the Olympics hears the starting pistol go off they will automatically react to it by starting off from the blocks. However if they become too nervous from all the pressure of things such as winning and the crowd's expectations they may freeze and this will slow their reaction times and therefore will lower their overall time of the run.

The next part of psychodynamic theory is your ego. This is the conscious part of your personality, the things you have to think about to do. The final part is your super ego which is your moral conscience for example when a basketball player passes up on taking a game winning shot because they are scared of missing it. (This theory is also applicable to aggression)

Trait theory - According to trait theory and individual's personality is made up of characteristics and traits which are decided by genetics. Hans Enysenck's Trait theory states that there are 2 dimensions of personality; introvert/extrovert and stable/unstable. An extrovert will be very sociable and confident where as an introvert will be relatively shy of social contact. If an individual is introverted and stable they will generally be thoughtful, reliable and controlled. If an individual is extroverted and unstable then they will usually be aggressive, excitable and impulsive. The graph below (www.topendsports.com) represents the relationship between how the dimensions of personality determine an individual's traits. Introverts will generally thrive in more calm sports which require finer skills, such as golf or archery because they require more concentration and are also individual sports. Extroverts would be suited more to team sports or sports with more aggression required, such as rugby or football because they will be able to bond and communicate better with their teammates than introverts and also extroverts are generally more excitable and aggressive with higher arousal levels.

Situational theory - This theory states that an individual's personality changes depending on the situation they are in and how they react to it. This is effectively the opposite of trait theory. Essentially the external influences impact the way you behave; an individual may be confident in one situation but be tentative in another. For example basketball player Derrick Rose is quiet and shy off the court but when he is playing basketball he is a leader who is very outgoing and full of confidence.

Interactional theory - This theory accounts for both situational and trait theory and it explains that an individuals actions cannot be explained by just personality alone. It therefore states that individuals do have a natural set of traits but the situation does determine how they act and behave as well but never of these completely determine the individual's behaviour.

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Motivation - The things that drive you to perform or behave in a certain way.

Intrinsic motivation is when an individual is motivated and driven by internal rewards; interests of enjoyment such as a love for a game. According to Martens & Webber (2002) intrinsic motivation is associated with increased enjoyment of an sport of activity, sportsmanship and also a reduced drop out rate due to the individual actually enjoying the sport more. A good example of a player who is intrinsically motivated is Rodger Federer who, although he has won essentially everything in the professional tennis scene, is motivated almost purely by his love of tennis. This has enabled him to successfully continue his professional career even when he is losing and performing poorly as well as being much older than most other of the top end pros.

External motivation is when an individual is motivated and driven by external rewards such as money, trophies, fame and admiration of fans and rivals. They are much more likely to drop out as if things are going wrong for example no team mates respect them because they are playing poorly then they may stop playing the sport. At a professional level if an individual starts to play bad and do not win many games/matches then they may fail to be motivated. This means that their fans may lose admiration of them meaning that they're motivation will drop further and they may struggle to recover therefore performance may dramatically decrease.

Different types of motivation will motivate different people, for example a younger person who is just starting out and is in the cognitive stage of learning will be intrinsically motivated as their motivation will come from enjoyment of the game and learning new skills. Elite athletes in the autonomous stage of learning are more likely to be extrinsically motivated as they will have learned most skills and will be improving at a much slower rate. They will be more likely to find motivation from winning trophies and in some cases money as well as having more people admiring them.

Achievement theory - This theory states that motivation is based on 2 concepts; the need to achieve and the need to avoid failure. Someone who feels the need to achieve will be more motivated and therefore will probably perform better than someone who is only trying not to fail as they are only trying to achieve the minimum where as someone who is trying to achieve will be striving for greatness. An individual with the need to achieve will focus on the pride of success, they will look for challenges as well as striving for greatness in all that they do. An individual who has a need to avoid failure will have much more of a focus on the shame and embarrassment of failure and will have a fear of the negative connotations of what comes with losing. To avoid losing they will chose to do easier tasks for example in basketball a player may be one of the best on their teams but they may have a need to avoid failure so instead of putting their all in, taking big shots and guarding the opponent's best player, they will sit back and do easier tasks and pass up on opportunities which will not challenge their talents; this will make them a much more mediocre player.

Attribution theory - This theory focuses on how an individual explains their successes and failures. Attributions will fall into one of 3 categories; stability - is the reason permanent or is it unstable? Causality - does the reason originate from an internal or external factor? Control - is the reason under the control of the individual or not? An individual may look at perceived causes rather than actual causes meaning that they may get the wrong idea of what they actually need to do to improve therefore they may struggle to correct their mistakes.


Aggression - Feelings of anger or antipathy which may result in some form of violent behaviour.

Gill's criteria for aggressive behaviour - This theory states that aggression has 4 main criteria:

-It is a form of behaviour that can be either physical or verbal behaviour.

-It is generally done to cause either physical or physiological harm.

-The harm is directed towards another being.

-It is intentional as an accident cannot be classed as a result of aggression.

We can see that an event such as Zinedine Zidane's attack on Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final fits into all of these categories; it was a physical form of behaviour, it caused physical harm, it was directed at another individual (Materazzi) and it was intentional although it was provoked.

There are different types of aggression, they are classified depending on what actions happened and what the context is.

Hostile aggression - This is the act of inflicting physical or psychological harm on another individual. The prime motive of hostile aggression is to harm another individual. The actions involve anger and are outside the rules of the game.

Instrumental aggression - This is the act of displaying aggressive behaviour even though the individual was attempting a non-aggressive action. The prime motive of instrumental aggression is to perform the skill. Anger is not evident although there is still some intent to be aggressive. An example of this is a defender in football putting in a particularly hard slide tackle in the first few minutes of a game against a top forward; this would give the forward second thoughts about attacking the defender with the ball in the rest of the game.

Assertive behaviour - This is different to aggression because it is completely within the rules of the game and is not intended to harm the opponent at all. Assertive behaviour is not caused by anger and is generally more controlled. The graph at the bottom demonstrates the relationship between aggression and assertion in terms of frustration and control.

Causes for aggression in sport - There are multiple causes for aggression by players in sport including the following; poor refereeing decisions, poor performance by self or teammates, losing, pressure from fans and team, social learning, being fouled. Any of these factors could cause a player to lose their head momentarily and be aggressive towards another player or possibly a fan.

Instinct theory - This theory states that aggression is a natural response which is innate and instinctive. Instinct theory indicates that an individual can react aggressively to another's actions in an animalistic way and that humans developed aggression as a survival instinct. In sporting terms this we could see this, for example, when a player accidentally makes a bad foul on a player when they are trying to block them, the player then squares up and pushes the player resulting in a technical foul. It is instinctive that the player must be aggressive towards the blocker although they did not originally mean to cause any warm at all and were trying to play within the boundaries of the game.

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