Motivation and emotion/Book/2020/Sporting performance, motivation, and emotion
How does motivation and emotion affect sporting performance?
Overview[edit | edit source]
How do motivation and emotion affect sporting performance? Why is it that specific athletes can "stay at the top" for so long? What separates the elite from the average? Could emotional and motivational factors be the answer? This chapter seeks to understand and answer these questions through the use of psychological theories and research.
Emotions pervade sport, and there's much to be gained through understanding how emotions are elicited and the ultimate impact they have on behaviour. Consequently the relationship between sport and emotions has long been explored, with numerous theories being presented. Predominantly these theories look at how to maximize performance and identify arousal and stress to be the key components to sporting performance. However, whilst these are undoubtedly critical to performance, the myriad of other emotions have potential to greatly affect sporting performance (Hanin 2000; Lazarus 2000; Jones & Uphill 2004). The importance of emotions regarding sporting performance has somewhat recently developed and advanced in the field of sports psychology. This has not been without hiccup though, with the most obvious point of contention being how to define emotion and thus what constitutes an emotion. It has, to a point, almost been agreed that creating a definition for emotion is likely "doomed for failure" (Hanin 2007), with many researchers avoiding a strict definition and instead discussing categories and components of emotion (Vallerand & Blanchard, 2000).
The intrinsic relationship between motivation and emotion is also evident in the available literature and conducted research. Making it abundantly clear that both have an influence on sporting performance.
Emotions and motivation in sport[edit | edit source]
What are emotions?[edit | edit source]
As discussed earlier it is increasingly difficult to provide a definition for emotion. Traditionally speaking emotions are viewed as an ongoing, psycho-physiological reaction to the surrounding environment (Lazarus 2000). However, these descriptive levels of definition fall short of defining the complete phenomena of emotions. For this to occur the cognitive and motivational variable that are involved in initial arousing of and then sustaining of an emotion need to be included, in order for a more complete understanding (Lazarus 2000). Despite this, Hanin (2007) suggests that the most important aspect of defining and describing emotions is being able to differentiate and identify: defining characteristics, antecedents and consequences.
A person-environment (P-E) interaction definition as described above is most beneficial when describing emotions as a category of experience, in that it recognises that individual reactions to environmental stimuli will differ. Acknowledging the importance of assessing not the individual or situation individually, but rather combining the two and delving into how the situation was perceived by that individual person (Hanin 2007). A number of theories are present regarding emotions and how they work, but of course no one theory is capable of holistically explaining the phenomena that are emotions. However emotional constructs can be applied to particular contexts in an effort to explain how the phenomenon works. In a sporting context relating to a P-E interaction, appraisal theory appears to be the theory that best encapsulates how and why these emotions come to fruition.
Appraisal theory[edit | edit source]
Appraisal theory in it's simplest form is the notion that emotions are elicited through the evaluation of an event or situation. In a sporting context this could be a feeling of sadness when losing a match due to a sense that the individual has lost something that they desired (Scherer, Schorr & Johnstone 2001). The entire premise of appraisal theory rests on the notion that every event in our lives is evaluated and assessed with regard for our well-being. The process of appraisal according to Lazarus (2000) holds the cognitive-motivational-relational key to our emotions, shaping the way we cope with them as well as shaping the environmental stimulus that elicits them. Appraisal theory was introduced as an effort to help explain particular issues that pre-existing models had struggled with. Particularly the variance in how emotions are felt, when they're felt and the context to which they are felt. Given the variety in which people perceive and react to environmental conditions it stands to reason that a variance in emotional response would be apparent. In a sporting context this remains true.
Cognitive Motivational Relational Theory[edit | edit source]
The cognitive motivational relational theory (CMRT) states that emotions occur as a result of events being evaluated as either having a positive or negative significance on well being (Thatcher, Jones & Lavallee 2011). The motivational aspect of the theory relates to the goals of an individual and how a psychological or behavioral response can be triggered to achieve this goal. Lazarus (1991, 2001) identified two primary performance outcomes (gains & loss), and established that these can either be anticipated (resulting in challenge or threat) or already occurred (resulting in benefit or harm). These four simple appraisal patterns of emotion can prove useful in explaining the relationship between emotion and performance (Hanin 2007). Functional emotions be they pleasant or otherwise have indicated to incite a response of strong action tendency both prior to and during performance. These emotions, appear to signal to available resources for a greater investment of effort consequently athletes are able to maintain consistent levels of concentration and thus performance. Contrastingly, sub optimal or dysfunctional emotions trigger distracting emotions. These are typically signaled as a result of an individual prematurely declaring that an outcome has been achieved or can not be achieved, thus their motivation for effort and exertion depletes. As an athletes' goals and appraisals of scenarios have the potential to drastically differ from person to person the CMRT provides a thorough framework, accounting for these intra-individual and inter-individual differences that are evident within athletes (Thatcher et al., 2011).
Lazarus' performance appraisal system
Lazarus (1991) contends that an athletes' emotion is representative of a core emotional theme. This theme describes the outcome of an athletes appraisal and serves as a descriptor of the interpretation of significance in relation to a specific situation or event. For example the core relational theme for happiness is "making reasonable progress towards realisations of a goal" (Lazarus 2000). CMRT suggests that each core relational theme will induce an action tendency that in turn influences performance either negatively or positively depending on the internal interaction between the individual and situation. (Woodman et al., 2009).
|Emotion||Core Relational Theme|
|Anger||A demeaning offence against me and mine.|
|Anxiety||Facing uncertain existential threat.|
|Guilt||Having transgressed a normal imperative.|
|Happiness||Making reasonable progress towards the realisations of a goal.|
|Hope||Fearing the worst but yearning for better and believing the improvement is possible.|
|Pride||Enhancement of one's ego identity by taking credit for a valued object or achievement,
either one's own or that of someone or a group with whom one identifies.
|Relief||A distressing goal-incongruent condition that has changed for the better or gone away|
|Shame||Failing to live up to an ego ideal|
Core relational themes for sports related emotions (adapted from Emotion and Adaptation by Richard Lazarus 1991 New York Oxford University Press
Coping options, which Lazarus defines as cognitive or behavioural efforts to manage demands that have been evaluated as exceeding the resources of that person can be categorised into one of two categories. These being problem focused coping and emotion focused coping. Problem focused coping involves an individual taking action to change a facet of the person-environment relationship, this is done by altering an aspect of the environment itself or changing their own situation within it (Thatcher et al., 2011). Emotion focused coping only influences what is in the mind of the athlete, more specifically it involves strategies employed to cope with a particular event these strategies include but are not limited to a redirection of attention or re-interpretation of the existing person-environment relationship (Thatcher et al.,).
Emotional response in a sporting context[edit | edit source]
Antecedents of emotion[edit | edit source]
Vallerand and Blanchard's (2000) research regarding antecedents of emotions delves into the psychological processes involved in evoking emotions, aiming towards an understanding of how individuals will feel within particular sporting contexts. They along with a variety of other researchers found that the majority of antecedent theories highlight the importance of intra-personal determinants, such as trait like characteristics. Which are, achievement needs, anxiety, mastery orientation, cognitions (expectancy of success), efficacy beliefs, causal ascriptions, and incentives related to goal orientations and their sources or locus (Hareli & Weiner, 2002). The research regarding antecedents corroborates and supports appraisal based theories regarding emotions in sport; which emphasize evaluations particularly that of performance as antecedents of emotion (Thatcher, et al.,). Kuhl (1994) identifies that antecedents can be either long term or more immediate and situational, typically in situations that are perceived as typical, distal antecedents are applicable. As situations such as these are more apparent a larger emphasis has been placed on distal antecedents within available literature and existing theories. However, in the case of unique or irregular occurrences proximal antecedents are of greater value. As they act as situational determinants of emotional experiences.
Consequences of emotion[edit | edit source]
Emotions affect performance, this much is evident. This influence can be quite drastic, consequently, extensive research has been applied to the relationship between the two . Amongst researchers there is a general consensus that emotions are pivotal in performance as they towards changes in cognitive and physical funtioning as well as levels of motivation (Jones 2003, Lazarus 2000, Uphill et al., 2009). Primarily research has focused on anxiety. Which, whilst being an obvious and prevalent emotion in a sporting setting and a clear influence of performance ,(Woodman & Hardy 2001) the focus should perhaps explore a broader range of emotions inclusive of anxiety (Lazarus 2000, Thatcher, et al.,). Recently this notion has been acknowledged by numerous psychologists and is manifested in their recent research and theories . When discussing theories of consequence relating to emotions in sport, the primary focus, if not the sole focus is the functional impact that an emotion has.
The functional affectsof emotion in a sports setting can be either facilitating, debilitating or neutral (Hanin 2000). The proposition of many theorists is that emotions have an idiosyncratic effect on performance, in that one individual may perform well when tense or angry, whereas another's performance may suffer. This is highlighted in the individual zones of optimal functioning theory (IZOF) which will be discussed further below. Moreover, the effect on performance also appears to be dependent on the sporting task being completed, with particular emotions showing a stronger relatedness to improving or debilitating performance in specific sporting arenas. For example anger may detract from performance if it were to negate resources necessary for the task at hand. However, should the physical skill require a "lashing out" motion then it may facilitate performance on account of its close association with angers action tendency (Woodman et al., 2009).
The research and conducted experiments of Woodman et al., (2009) suggested that if the core relational theme of emotions is applicable to the performance it will result in a greater positive affect. For example in cognitive tasks despite anger indicating a significant increase in effort, the performance was not significantly affected. Whereas hope proved to be a greater facilitator of performance when completing cognitive tasks, perhaps on account of the core relational theme being more applicable to the task at hand.
Individual zones of optimal functioning[edit | edit source]
Originally, the IZOF model was developed to explain the link between anxiety and sporting performance (Hanin 1989, Thatcher et al., 2011) . However, in more recent times the model has incorporated a broader range of emotions, Where in it puts forward the notion of an idiosyncratic relationship between emotions and sporting performance. In its most simplistic form the IZOF model suggests that people are unique and as such their emotions will affect performance uniquely. To produce an emotional profile, athletes are presented with a list of emotional states that they; through the use of retrospective assessment of prior performance (Cerin, Szabo, Hunt & Williams 2000) selects 4 to 5 positive emotions and 4 to 5 negative emotions that they deem to be associated with successful and unsuccessful performance. It is important to note that athletes are able to generate items when they feel the listed items are not applicable to their personal experience.
Hanin (2000) classified the emotional response across five dimensions, three of these being related to the subjective nature of experience and its structure, these are; form, content and intensity and two dimensions related to the dynamic of the subjective experiencethese are time and context. The form dimension refers to the nature in which emotions are represented inclusive of cognitive, affective, motivational, somatic, kinesthetic, performance and communicative components. The content dimension covers the hedonic tone (pleasant vs unpleasant), the functionality of emotions and their impact on performance. The intensity dimension assesses the strength of feeling. The time dimension refers to when the emotion is being felt,(e.g pre, during or post game). Finally the context dimension refers to the environment in which these emotion arise (e.g practice or competition).
Moreover, the utility of the IZOF theory has been illustrated in multiple sporting environments, such as Karate athletes (Robazza, Bortoli & Hanin), as well as swimmers and track and field athletes (Robazza, Pellizzari, Bertollo and Hanin, 2008). These studies indicate that singular emotions are capable of being facilitating, debilitating or both regardless of the emotion being positive or negative. Despite, these promising results and encouraging empirical support regarding the validity of the IZOF model there are multiple short comings that have been identified. Lazarus (2000) criticises several of the items used to describe emotions such as the terms confident and purposeful, which he describes as cognitive states rather than emotions. Additionally the primary critcismof the IZOF model is that it fails to provide an explanation of the mechanisms by which emotions affect performance. Despite this it is recognised that the IZOF model has contributed significantly to understanding the link between emotions and performance (Thatcher et al., 2011). In a practical sense it remains a invaluable tool for athletes, coaches and psychologists alike towards improving an individuals mental preparedness and thus sporting performance.
Motivation in sport[edit | edit source]
What is motivation?[edit | edit source]
Motivation is a central tenet to a modern everyday life. Its importance is constantly highlighted, particularly in relation to harnessing it towards desired outcomes and achievement. But if I were to ask what motivation truly was, the vast range of response and definition would become apparent. Even amongst motivation researchers a consensus can not be achieved. Ford (1992) has stated that their are at least 32 theories of motivation with their own definitions of the construct (Roberts & Treasure 2012). Similarly to what was discussed regarding defining emotions, the modern solution of defining motivation is quite simply not to, but rather utilise descriptions of motivational processes such as goal setting or achievement striving. However, among the majority of motivational theorists there is an agreed assumption that motivation is not to be viewed as an entity but rather a process (Maehr & Braskamp 1986). As such in order to acquire a holistic understanding of motivation one must understand the process of motivation and the constructs that drive that process (Roberts & Treasure 2012). For sports psychology it is then a matter of understanding how these constructs apply in sports and exercise. Two of the more popular theories of motivation in sports and exercise (that we will be looking into) are Achievement goal theory and Self determination theory (SDT)
Achievement goal theory[edit | edit source]
Achievement goal theory "assumes that the individual is an intentional, goal-directed organism that operates in a rational manner and that achievement goals govern achievement beliefs and guide subsequent decision making and behaviour in achievement contexts", (Roberts, 2001, p. 10). The overall goal within achievement goal theory is assumed to be the aspiration to develop and display competence or to avoid demonstrating incompetence (Nicholls 1984). Within this theory theirare two states of task involvement, these are the motivating factors by which an individual applies themselves to a particular task. The two states are ego oriented performers and task oriented performers. The two are said to operate on a continuum as goal state is dynamic and changes based on the contextual setting.
Task oriented performers are driven predominantly by personal improvement and learning (Mallett & Hanrahan 2004). Consequently, the perceptions of success and failure are individualised and dependent on whether personal performance standards had improved. This personal improvement is associated with a sense of achievement, resulting in an enhanced notion of personal competence (Nicholls 1989). Contrastingly, ego oriented performers are driven by the ambition of proving their ability. Their perception on competence and ability is dependent on beating their opposition. Additionally an individual categorised as an ego oriented performer is likely to have their sense of self worth linked to their perception of their personal ability.
As stated earlier goal states operate on a continuum in that an athlete may begin a task with a strong task involved motivation however events may arise that motivate them to demonstrate superiority resulting in a shift in the state of task involvement. The study conducted by Mallett and Hanrahan (2004) indicated that elite athletes have a balance between the two, primarily they are driven towards recognition and a variety of other ego oriented achievements. However, elite athletes constantly challenge themselves and strive towards self improvement and task mastery. More importantly the sense of accomplishment that accompanied achieving personal goals was demonstrated to be a significant motivating force within the group of elite athletes participating in the study.
Self Determination Theory (SDT)[edit | edit source]
SDT was first proposed by Deci and Ryan (1985) it provided a framework to understand the social contexts that facilitate or undermine intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. SDT presents the hypothesis that people are inherently motivated towards mastery of their environment, proposing three psychological needs that humans need to satisfyː self-determination, competence and relatedness. Self determined behaviours are indicative of the sense of agency that exists within human functioning. For example athletes can freely choose to participate in a specific sport this freedom of choice is associated with an internal locus of causality (Mallett & Hanrahan 2004). This sense of intrinsic motivation is associated with the tendency to explore, learn and pursue unique challenges. Conversely extrinsic motivation is associated with an external locus of causality related to a perceived lack of choice.
The inherent need to display competence within humans is the second central component of SDT (Deci 1975). Effective interaction with the environment induces a sense of achievement within individuals and stimulates them to continue undertaking new challenges. As they strive towards further demonstrations of competence. Thirdly a sense of being connected to significant others (relatedness) is the third fundamental need within humans proposed by SDT. The desire to be accepted and belonging to a group (such as a sports team) is crucial to a healthy perception of self (Deci & Ryan 1985).
The findings of Mallett and Hanrahan (2004) contrast the proposed hypothesis that competitive environments would be conducive to reducing intrinsic motivation and increasing extrinsic motivation. The elite athletes in their study did not display low levels of intrinsic motivation, infact achieving personal goals were shown to positively influence personal perceptions of competence and consequently, intrinsic motivation. One's intrinsic motivation is heightened by experiences of success. The intrinsic satisfaction that coincides with a sense of accomplishment and achievement proved to be paramount to a healthy perception of competence among the elite athletes within the study.
Relationship between emotions and motivation in sport[edit | edit source]
Theorists within sports psychology consider emotion to have the capacity to mediate and energize subsequent behaviours, by imploring people to channel additional physical and mental resources towards a task (Vallerand & Bouchard 2000). There is research evidence that these emotions may impact motivation (Thatcher et al,. 2011). It has been showcased that positive affects of emotions are associated to higher levels of effort and motivation and greater persistence on cognitive tasks (Erzen and Isen 2002). The impact of emotion on motivational aspects is not limited to sporting performance but also sports participation. For example an athlete may use anger experienced from an injury to motivate them during and post rehab resulting in an increase in effort. Conversely a feeling of depression can result in lowered levels of effort. Positive emotions such as enjoyment have been labelled as one of the most important predictors of commitment within both young and elite athletes (Scanlan et al., 2003).
Conclusion[edit | edit source]
It is evident that both motivation and emotion are significant in regards to sporting performance and certainly play some part in separating the elite level from the average. The CMRT is a prevalent theory that provides reason for the variability in emotional response and outcomes of emotion. It highlights coping strategies as being central towards sporting performance as it is the reaction that an athlete has to these emotions and how they channel the emotion that is paramount to overall performance. CMRT makes clear that both positive and negative emotions can be helpful or debilitating of performance. The sources of motivation within elite athletes are multiple however, the constant search towards bettering themselves and mastering their social environment appears to be at least a clear distinction between the elite and the rest . It is important to note that their are a myriad of factors and variables involved in the making of an elite athlete but it seems as though motivation and emotion are notable contributors.
Whilst emotional research in sports is quite extensive nthe areas of future research are plentiful with numerous questions still needing answering. Motivational research in relation to sporting performance specifically is a developing field with copious amounts of research being conducted each year. However, the room for improvement and detailing of theories is unquestionable but as the science grows so too does interest to understand the relationship between these phenomenons .
See also[edit | edit source]
- Appraisal Theory (Wikipedia)
- Motivation and emotion/Book/2018/Arousal and sporting performance
- Motivation and emotion/Book/2019/Mindfulness and sporting performance
References[edit | edit source]
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Scanlan, T. K., Russell, D. G., Beals, K. P. and Scanlan, L. A. (2003). Project on elite athlete commitment (PEAK): II. A direct test and expansion of the Sport Commitment Model with elite amateur sportsmen. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 25, 377–401.