Article Review: Attributions in Sports Psychology

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[. . .] Interestingly, studies referenced by the authors reveal that as group size increases, individual athletes "…diffuse the responsibility for group action"; hence, individuals in large groups (such as a football team) are not apt to accept failure on their own shoulders (Zaccaro, 257).

And when it comes to group athletic behaviors, there are four characteristics that can result, according to Zaccaro's (referencing Miller and Schlenker (1985). First, a quarterback after a winning performance can attribute the success to his play ("I threw the ball well"). Even though he had 10 players around him making it all work, the quarterback can take credit, the attribution in this case to a single player. Second, the winning game can be attributed to "…factors of the group-including-the-self" (which Zaccaro calls "group-internal") (258). The quarterback might use the tired cliche, "It was a team effort…and I couldn't have done it without the team behind me"; what he really means is there was a sense of cohesiveness between the line and the backfield but he's glad to take some of the credit. The third characteristic is what Zaccaro attributes to "group-excluding-the-self" ("group other); that would be a situation in which the quarterback or captain says "This team worked hard all week for this game and we showed what we can do when every unit is alert and well prepared." And the fourth characteristic is said to be because of environmentally helpful conditions ("environment attributions"); this would be say a rainy day and the team always plays well in the mud. A key point for this article is that "…attributions which enhance the group can raise self-esteem" -- which makes sense because in team sports jealousy can occur if individuals take too much credit.

Ability and Effort in Sports vs. Intellectual Ability and Effort

An article in the Journal of Personality (1980) points to a study of 120 male college undergraduates, who were asked to ride a bicycle ergometer in a physical test. Following the manipulation of the bicycle (unknown to the riders it was made more difficult the second time) the riders experienced decreased performance (Rejeski, et al., 1980). The riders were then quizzed as to the attribution of their less impressive performance. "Successful outcomes were attributed to both ability and effort," but as to the unsuccessful outcomes, they were "…attributed to a lack of ability but not a lack of effort" (Rejeski, 233). The authors suggest that a "motivational bias appears to preclude low ability attribution in Intellectual pursuits," but when it comes to sports activities, "…physiologically related ability may be viewed as relatively unstable" (Rejeski, 233).

In conclusion, it is important for sports teams and individual players to understand why and how attributions matter vis-a-vis performance. This paper outlines some of the scholarship on that subject.

Works Cited

Grove, J.R., and Prapavessis, H. (1995). The Effect of Skill Level and Sport Outcomes on Dimensional Aspects of Causal Attributions. Australian Psychologist, 30(2), 92-95.

Rees, T., Ingledew, D.K., and Hardy, L. (2005). Attribution in sport psychology: seeking

Congruence between theory, research, and practice. Psychology of Sport and Exercise,

Vol. 6, 189-204.

Rejeski, W.J., and Lowe, C.A. (1980). The role of ability and effort in attributions for sport

Achievement. Journal of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Attributions in Sports Psychology.  (2013, August 21).  Retrieved August 23, 2019, from

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"Attributions in Sports Psychology."  August 21, 2013.  Accessed August 23, 2019.