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British Olympic hopefuls: The antecedents and consequences of implicit ability beliefs in elite track and field athletes

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Abstract

Objectives This study provided an in-depth examination of the implicit ability beliefs held by elite British track and field athletes, including the antecedents and consequences of these beliefs.Design and MethodsA qualitative design was employed involving semi-structured interviews with 4 Olympic hopefuls in the sport of track and field athletics. Thematic analysis was utilised to interpret the results of the study, involving a combination of inductive and deductive approaches.ResultsThe core components of ability beliefs included beliefs that ability is stable, ability is malleable, and that it is possible to build on natural ability. A variety of personal, social and environmental antecedents appeared to influence the athletes' ability beliefs. The consequences of implicit beliefs encompassed three major themes, which were achievement motivation, setbacks and attributions for success and failure.Conclusions The results from the analysis indicated that the athletes' implicit beliefs were very specific, as their beliefs about ability appeared to underpin sport-specific performance. The belief that ability was malleable was universal amongst the athletes and this may be related to their age, experience, high perceived ability and the high level at which they compete. However, the athletes believed that although natural ability is useful, talent is only a small part of the equation as learning, improving and working hard are all necessary for success at the highest level.

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This research sought to integrate C. S. Dweck and E. L. Leggett's (1988) model with attribution theory. Three studies tested the hypothesis that theories of intelligence-the belief that intelligence is malleable (incremental theory) versus fixed (entity theory)-would predict (and create) effort versus ability attributions, which would then mediate mastery-oriented coping. Study 1 revealed that, when given negative feedback, incremental theorists were more likely than entity theorists to attribute to effort. Studies 2 and 3 showed that incremental theorists were more likely than entity theorists to take remedial action if performance was unsatisfactory. Study 3, in which an entity or incremental theory was induced, showed that incremental theorists' remedial action was mediated by their effort attributions. These results suggest that implicit theories create the meaning framework in which attributions occur and are important for understanding motivation.
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The purpose of this investigation was to describe the psychological characteristics and reactions of injured athletes and to examine the changes in these reactions throughout their rehabilitation. This study examined 136 elite injured athletes from 25 sports at four phases: upon injury, partial recovery, semi-recovery, and full recovery. Injury appraisal, athlete's demographics, and emotional and psychological variables were measured. Duration of injuries ranged from 4 to 99 weeks (M = 19 weeks). Changes were examined through a series of repeated measure MAN-OVAs with polynomial contrasts. Findings were typically as expected: increased confidence and vigor and decreased negative emotional responses over the recovery period. The changes over the recovery period were not always at a constant rate. Confidence of adhering to rehabilitation, passive, and emotion-focused coping, remained stable over time. The initial injury appraisal, regarding anticipated loss of time and the psychological impact of this, needs to be examined further. The psychological state of the athlete at the various stages of recovery has important implications for those diagnosing injuries and implementing rehabilitation programs.
Article
In this target article, we present evidence for a new model of individual differences in judgments and reactions. The model holds that people's implicit theories about human attributes structure the way they understand and react to human actions and outcomes. We review research showing that when people believe that attributes (such as intelligence or moral character) are fixed, trait-like entities (an entity theory), they tend to understand outcomes and actions in terms of these fixed traits (''I failed the test because I am dumb'' or ''He stole the bread because he is dishonest''). In contrast, when people believe that attributes are more dynamic, malleable, and developable (an incremental theory), they tend refocus less on broad traits and, instead, tend to understand outcomes and actions in terms of more specific behavioral or psychological mediators (''I failed the test because of my effort or strategy'' or ''He stole the bread because he was desperate''). The two frameworks also appear to foster different reactions: helpless versus mastery-oriented responses to personal setbacks and an emphasis on retribution versus education or rehabilitation for transgressions. These findings are discussed in terms of their implications for personality, motivation, and social perception.
Article
Achievement goal researchers and theorists have relied primarily on the distinction between performance goals and mastery goals in differentiating competence-based strivings. In this article, an argument is made for incorporating the distinction between approach and avoidance motivation into the performance-mastery dichotomy. Historical, theoretical, and empirical reasons for attending to the approach-avoidance distinction are offered, and a revised, trichotomous framework of achievement goals comprising mastery, performance-approach, and performance-avoidance goals is described and reviewed. This trichotomous framework is discussed in the broader context of a hierarchical model of achievement motivation that attends to the motivational foundation underlying achievement goals per se. Avenues for further theoretical development are also overviewed, including consideration of a mastery-avoidance goal construct.
Objectives The purpose of this study was to examine the antecedents, specificity, and ceiling effects of golfers’ implicit theories of sport ability.DesignThe present study employs a qualitative research design. A constructivist grounded theory methodology was adopted.Method Participants (N = 8) were asked to describe their conceptions of golf ability. All responses were recorded, transcribed, and the data were analyzed through a series of iterations, which led to the identification of three dimensions that constitute golfers’ beliefs about ability.ResultsThe three dimensions were: acquirable ability, stable ability, and developing natural attributes. Categories within these dimensions offer initial evidence for the role of social agents and the inherent culture of golf in shaping co-existing beliefs in relation to sport ability. Beliefs with regards to ceiling effects of ability are reported, with one theme proposing a ceiling to sport ability, and a contrasting category exemplifying the belief that there is always room for improvement.Conclusions The present study contributes to the field by offering initial evidence for the antecedents, specificity, and ceiling effects of golfers’ conceptions of their sport ability. Implications, both theoretical in terms of future research, and practical with regards to practitioners’ role in educating athletes and cultivating an environment conducive to the perception that sport ability is acquirable, are offered.
Article
Past work has documented and described major patterns of adaptive and maladaptive behavior: the mastery-oriented and the helpless patterns. In this article, we present a research-based model that accounts for these patterns in terms of underlying psychological processes. The model specifies how individuals' implicit theories orient them toward particular goals and how these goals set up the different patterns. Indeed, we show how each feature (cognitive, affective, and behavioral) of the adaptive and maladaptive patterns can be seen to follow directly from different goals. We then examine the generality of the model and use it to illuminate phenomena in a wide variety of domains. Finally, we place the model in its broadest context and examine its implications for our understanding of motivational and personality processes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Describes how motivational processes influence a child's acquisition, transfer, and use of knowledge and skills. Recent research within the social-cognitive framework illustrates adaptive and maladaptive motivational patterns, and a research-based model of motivational processes is presented that shows how the particular performance or learning goals children pursue on cognitive tasks shape their reactions to success and failure and influence the quality of their cognitive performance. Implications for practice and the design of interventions to change maladaptive motivational processes are outlined. It is suggested that motivational patterns may contribute to gender differences in mathematics achievement and that empirically based interventions may prevent current achievement discrepancies and provide a basis for more effective socialization. (79 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
[describes research which addresses] the following questions: how can we define the theoretical construct of a mastery goal in relation to the parameters of a particular learning environment / 1. how do the principles underlying a mastery orientation translate into instructional practices and children's experiences / 2. are students who see their classroom experiences as mastery-oriented more likely to engage in adaptive motivational patterns / 3. as students progress through school, can certain patterns of motivation become stabilized / can certain kinds of experiences over time begin to have cumulative effects on student motivation / 4. can children's motivation be enhanced by increasing the salience of a mastery orientation in the learning environment / how can we design such a field intervention / [students studied were elementary and high school students] (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
The study was designed, first, to explore associations among children's beliefs about intelligence and effort, goal orientations, self-reported learning strategies, and academic achievement. Assessments of all variables were conducted twice over 1 school year on 319 children in Grades 3–6. Results indicate that the belief that intelligence is relatively fixed was associated with the beliefs that performance is relatively stable and that intelligence is global in its effects on performance. This set of beliefs was differentiated from the belief that effort has positive effects on intelligence and performance. Children's beliefs in intelligence as fixed and affecting performance were negatively associated with academic achievement, but a path analysis provided only modest support for the hypothesis that the effect of such beliefs would be mediated by a performance goal orientation and accompanying superficial learning strategies. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
50 swimming dropouts (age 10–18 yrs) were surveyed to assess the reasons for their decision to discontinue swimming. Ss also responded to a series of structured interview questions regarding involvement in sport, social encouragement for swimming, aspects they liked and disliked about competitive swimming, and aspects they liked and disliked about former coaches. Results suggest that the majority of youth swimmers who discontinue participation do so because of interest in other activities, and not because of excessive pressure, a lack of fun, or over-emphasis on winning. However, these more negative reasons did cause some Ss to discontinue involvement. (French abstract) (11 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Describes the author's research efforts to link basic and applied psychology concepts in each of the following areas: aptitude measurement, learning and training, and human task performance. Several studies are described in detail to illustrate a number of broad issues, particularly the possibility of using combinations of experimental and correlational methods for studying complex human behavior, and the need to develop concepts that allow more dependable generalization of research findings to new situations (particularly to new tasks). A taxonomy of human perceptual-motor abilities is described and related to more complex tasks. Other studies investigated the relationship between abilities and skill acquisition; individual differences in various learning phenomena (e.g., transfer of training); and whether the taxonomic categories are useful for standardizing laboratory tasks and for generalizing results of these tasks to new tasks. Results suggest that (a) experimental-correlational studies can be used to develop a body of principles relating task dimensions to ability requirements; (b) kinesthetic ability factors become more important than spatial ones as psychomotor learning progresses; and (c) it should be possible to develop a data base about human performance, indexed by type of task. (37 ref.) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
This study examined the influence of the perceived situational climate on students' implicit theories of ability in physical education (PE) classes. The empirical data stem from a questionnaire survey of ninth grade students conducted in the county of Buskerud in Norway. Canonical correlation, multiple regression and one-way MANOVA analyses revealed a consistent pattern of relationships between the motivational climate in PE as perceived by the students and their implicit theories of ability. A learning environment that is perceived to emphasise competition and social comparison and to raise concern about one's ability seems to induce fixed implicit theories of ability. By contrast, a climate in which effort, progress and teacher support of all students is seen as prevailing seems to generate a theory of ability as expandable and learning induced. Results were interpreted as providing evidence for the importance of a mastery-oriented climate in PE in terms of fostering optimism for learning in school physical education.
Article
We examined the relative contribution of epistemological beliefs and implicit theories of intelligence to the adoption of mastery, performance-approach, and performance-avoidance goals, respectively, in a sample of 80 Norwegian student teachers in an innovative, co-operative instructional context with little emphasis on grades and performance evaluation. Epistemological beliefs about the speed of knowledge acquisition predicted achievement goals. Students who believed that learning occurs quickly or not at all were less likely to adopt mastery goals and more likely to adopt performance-approach and performance-avoidance goals. In addition, students who believed in stable and given knowledge were less likely to adopt mastery goals. Epistemological beliefs were found to play more important roles in goal adoption than implicit theories of intelligence.
Article
Background and Purpose: What drives some athletes to achieve at the highest level whilst other athletes fail to achieve their physical potential? Why does the ‘fire’ burn so brightly for some elite athletes and not for others? A good understanding of an athlete’s motivation is critical to a coach designing an appropriate motivational climate to realize an athlete’s physical talent. This paper examines the motivational processes of elite athletes within the framework of three major social-cognitive theories of motivation.Method: Participants were five male and five female elite track and field athletes from Australia who had finished in the top ten at either the Olympic Games and/or the World Championships in the last six years. Qualitative data were collected using semi-structured interviews.Results and Discussion: Inductive analyses revealed several major themes associated with the motivational processes of elite athletes: (a) they were highly driven by personal goals and achievement, (b) they had strong self-belief, and (c) track and field was central to their lives. The findings are discussed in light of recent social-cognitive theories of motivation, namely, self-determination theory, the hierarchical model of motivation, and achievement goal theory. Self-determined forms of motivation characterised the elite athletes in this study and, consistent with social-cognitive theories of motivation, it is suggested that goal accomplishment enhances perceptions of competence and consequently promotes self-determined forms of motivation.
Article
This study tested and extended Dweck’s social-cognitive theory of motivation with adults who deliberately chose to face the challenge of returning to school. We examined the relationships among beliefs (implicit theories) on the nature of intelligence, goal orientation, cognitive engagement in learning, and achievement using path analyses. Findings were generally consistent with Dweck’s theoretical predictions. Striving for competence improvement (mastery goals) had a positive impact on learning activities and outcomes, while striving to demonstrate competence (performance goals) or to avoid effort (work avoidance) had a negative influence on learning and achievement. Additionally, data suggested that mastery goals had a positive influence on academic achievement through the mediation of effort expenditure. The predicted effects of implicit theories of intelligence on goal orientation and cognitive engagement in learning, however, failed to emerge. Results are discussed in relation to their general theoretical implications and with regard to the specific characteristics of returning to school adults.
Article
Objectives The purpose of this study was to examine causal links between implicit beliefs about sport ability and situational achievement goals among 123 secondary school students (54 males, 69 females; mean age=13.40 years, SD=1.18) from one school in the English Midlands. Cognitive, affective, and behavioural indicators were assessed to test for differences between two experimental groups (entity-induced and incremental-induced beliefs) and a control group in the face of achievement setbacks. Method Field experiment. Results Support was found for a causal link between sport ability beliefs and achievement goals both before and after failure on a sport task. Ability attributions for failure were stronger for entity theorists but there were no differences between groups on affective reactions and willingness to participate in a future training programme, probably due to high incremental beliefs in all participants. Conclusion Discussion centres on the links between entity and incremental beliefs, achievement goals and motivational outcomes in youth sport. Moreover, implications for future studies that seek to manipulate individuals' sport ability beliefs are examined.
Article
Two studies investigated the links between goal orientations and conceptions of sport ability. In Study 1, 194 English children (aged 11-12 yrs) completed a psychological inventory which included questions on achievement goal choice and perceptions of the nature of sport ability. In Study 2, 304 French children (aged 11-17 yrs) completed questionnaires, including the French version of the Perception of Success Questionnaire and the Conception of the Nature of Athletic Ability Questionnaire. Clear relationships were observed between a social comparison goal and a conception of athletic ability as a "gift" and being "general," and between a task mastery goal and the conception of athletic ability as being incremental and determined by learning. The measuring of the causal links that unite goals and ability conceptions, as well as the likely impact of such conceptions on motivation were developed and discussed.
Article
Utilising a goal perspectives framework, a study predicting physical activity intentions in 12 to 16-year-old Hungarian adolescents was conducted with two samples. Theoretical predictions established a model that was tested through path analysis. Beliefs thought to underpin goal orientations were hypothesised to predict ego orientation (general and gift beliefs) and task orientation (learning and incremental beliefs). Task orientation was hypothesised to predict intentions directly, while ego orientation was hypothesised to predict intentions indirectly through perceived competence. Results from the first sample (n=301) suggested that the model could be improved by adding paths between general beliefs and perceived competence and between task orientation and perceived competence. This modified model was shown to fit data from a second sample (n=422) very well. Multi-group analysis confirmed a good fit and so the two samples were combined. The model fitted the data well for the total sample (n=723). Overall, results showed that 20.8% of the variance in intentions was explained by the model, and that sport ability beliefs were moderately associated with task orientation but only weakly associated with ego orientation. The motivational importance of a task orientation was confirmed with its direct prediction of intentions.
Article
This article explores the life story of a young man who experienced a spinal cord injury (SCI) and became disabled though playing the sport of rugby union football. His experiences post SCI illuminate the ways in which movement from one form of embodiment to another connects him to a dominant cultural narrative regarding recovery from SCI that is both tellable and acceptable in terms of plot and structure to those around him. Over time, the obdurate facts of his impaired and disabled body lead him to reject this dominant narrative and move into a story line that is located on Norrick's (2005) upper-bounding side of tellability. This makes it transgressive, frightening, difficult to hear, and invokes the twin processes of deprivation of opportunity and infiltrated consciousness as described by Nelson (2001). These, and the effects of impairment, are seen to have direct consequences for the tellability of embodied experiences along with identity construction and narrative repair over time. Finally, some reflections are offered on how the conditions that negate the telling of his story might be challenged.
Reasons for attrition in competitive youth swimming Implicit theories, attributions, and coping: a meaning system approach Athlete burnout in elite sport: a self-determination perspective
  • D Gould
  • D Feltz
  • T Horn
  • M Weiss
  • Y Hong
  • C Chiu
  • C S Dweck
  • D M S Lin
  • W Wan
  • C Lonsdale
  • K Hodge
  • E Rose
Gould, D., Feltz, D., Horn, T., & Weiss, M. (1982). Reasons for attrition in competitive youth swimming. Journal of Sport Behavior, 5, 155e165. Hong, Y., Chiu, C., Dweck, C. S., Lin, D. M. S., & Wan, W. (1999). Implicit theories, attributions, and coping: a meaning system approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 588e599. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.77.3.588. Lonsdale, C., Hodge, K., & Rose, E. (2009). Athlete burnout in elite sport: a self-determination perspective. Journal of Sports Sciences, 27, 785e795. http:// dx.doi.org/10.1080/02640410902929366.