Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 1 March 2019 | Volume 10 | Article 576
published: 26 March 2019
Taking Action or Thinking About It?
State Orientation and Rumination Are
Correlated in Athletes
AlenaKröhler and StefanBerti*
Department of Clinical Psychology and Neuropsychology, Institute for Psychology, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz,
Athletic performance in competitive sports relies heavily on the ability to cope effectively
with stressful situations. In contrast, some athletes report that their thoughts revolve
around the future or past and not around the actual demands during competitions. In
those specic stressful situations, the lack of focus like an unintended xation on repetitive
cognitions can have fatal consequences with regard to the performance. Especially when
competitors are close in their athletic capabilities, differences in effectively coping with
stress and mental stability may decide about winning and losing. One established factor
of performing effectively under pressure is the individual tendency to either focus on taking
action (i.e., action orientation) or on focusing on the own emotions (i.e., state orientation).
It is widely acknowledged that state-oriented athletes have disadvantages in performing
under stress. Moreover, the action control theory claims that state orientation is related
to ruminative cognitions, which itself is assumed to impair performance in the long term.
Wetested this hypothesis in 157 competitive athletes from different sports (including
individual and team sports). Regression analysis demonstrates a substantial correlation
of failure-related action orientation (i.e., state orientation) with different measures of
rumination (including general, clinically relevant, and competition-related rumination). In
addition, general (i.e., content independent) rumination also correlated substantially with
a rumination scale adapted specically to sports-related competition. These results
suggest (1) that a sports and competition-related ruminative mechanism exists and (2)
that ruminative cognitions are related to the cognitive basis of state orientation. While our
study does not allow for a causal interpretation, it provides an additional approach to
investigate mental factors underlying inter-individual differences in athletic performance
under stress and pressure.
Keywords: rumination, action control theory, state orientation, action orientation, failure-related behavioral
adaptation, competitive sports, competition-related rumination, competitive athletes
Competitive athletes distinguished themselves through conscious permanent acting under stressful
conditions ascribable to their special environment, the participation in competitions, and the
immediate consequences of their actions. In general, those situations require a high degree of
immediate and long-term self-regulatory capabilities. erefore, successful athletes were attributed
Manchester Metropolitan University,
Selenia Di Fronso,
Università degli Studi G. d’Annunzio
Chieti e Pescara, Italy
University of Suffolk,
This article was submitted to
Movement Science and Sport
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Psychology
Received: 05 October 2018
Accepted: 01 March 2019
Published: 26 March 2019
Kröhler A and Berti S (2019) Taking
Action or Thinking About It? State
Orientation and Rumination Are
Correlated in Athletes.
Front. Psychol. 10:576.
Kröhler and Berti Rumination and State Orientation in Sports
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 2 March 2019 | Volume 10 | Article 576
to problem-focused, resilient coping-strategies (Henkel and
Schneider, 2014). However, in the high demanding domain of
competitive sports, inter-individual dierences in the competence
of adaption to stressful situations are observable and can have
an enormous positive or negative impact on the athletic behavior
and performance, especially throughout a competitive season
or in the period of a training camp (Filho et al., 2013, 2015;
Kölling et al., 2015). One theory that is well established in
this context is the action control theory (Beckmann and Kossok,
2018), which was originally developed by Kuhl (1983, 1994a)
and represents one of the most prominent theories in the
context of volition. In essence, this theory assumes that regulation
becomes necessary if conicts between competing action
tendencies occur (Beckmann and Kossok, 2018). Take, for
instance, a soccer player who has to decide how to act aer
playing a bad pass during an attack: there might be dierent
options for taking immediate action (like tackling an opponent
to regain the ball or running back to support the defense)
but it is also possible to focus on the lost (i.e., by cursing
the conditions or the teammates or feeling guilty or incompetent).
According to the theory of action control, in such situations,
volitional processes are inuenced by individual dierences in
action orientation. In detail, the theory distinguishes between
action and state orientation, two extremes on a continuous
scale describing the likelihood whether people respond with
action-taking when situational demands are increasing. Action-
oriented individuals distinguish themselves through solving
problems intuitively in adverse conditions (e.g., bad weather,
broken equipment, and poor eld or arena conditions), rapid
acting without excessively thinking about the source or the
person responsible, and developing dierent possibilities to act
in demanding situations (Kuhl and Kazén, 2003). ey typically
act in high demanding situations as eciently or even better
as in comparable relaxing situations (Koole and Jostmann,
2004; Koole et al., 2012). Athletes with an action orientation
can also handle failures in high demanding situations more
eciently and draw the attention to forthcoming challenges.
In contrast, athletes with a tendency to state orientation
are focused on their emotions and thoughts. An unintended
xation on the own situation is mostly the consequence, which
is why they do not solve problems easily and refocus on the
actual task (Kuhl and Kazén, 2003; Koole etal., 2012). Moreover,
state-oriented athletes think a lot about their goals but fail to
take immediate action. is behavior, therefore, could inhibit
the readiness and the implementation of action (Dibbelt and
Kuhl, 1994). Finally, in the theory of action orientation, ruminative
cognitions are described as the most immediate and conscious
consequence of a dispositional state orientation (Kuhl, 1994a).
A number of studies tested whether these hypothesized
dierences of action- and state-oriented individuals comply in
the context of competitive sports. e previous ndings pointed
mainly in the same direction, suggesting disadvantages of state-
oriented athletes compared to action-oriented athletes in dierent
aspects that are relevant for athletic performance particularly
in stressful situations. Two studies found dierences in the
level of action orientation and risk-taking behavior in the sense
of measuring accuracy and time of the individual
decision-making process (Stiensmeier-Pelster et al., 1989; Raab
and Johnson, 2004). Further studies with dierent experimental
paradigms showed dierences in depletion of self-control resources
(Gröpel etal., 2014) and in the eciency of intention initiation
(Kazén et al., 2008). is picture is generally supported by a
review of Koole et al. (2005) who provided a summary of
disruptive eects of stress on state-oriented individuals. In
addition, Koole et al. (2005) described also potential positive
eects of state orientation. In detail, state orientation can
be adaptive (1) through external support, (2) in dangerous,
unpredictable environments and (3) in interpersonal relationships.
is applies to sports, too: for instance, Beckmann and Kazén
(1994) reported inverse eects of state orientation in the sense
of a positive consequence by maximum power. is shows that
state orientation does not necessarily exhibit only negative eects
on sport performance (see also Beckmann and Kossok, 2018,
for a summary of advantages and disadvantages of the individual
action orientation). However, the majority of studies demonstrated
the disadvantage of state orientation in sports performance
and the question arises whether this eect is related to the
higher tendency of state-oriented persons to focus on thoughts
and the assumed higher level of rumination (Kuhl, 1994a).
e eect of rumination on athletic behavior and performance
has frequently been stated but was only rarely explicitly
investigated. Only a few studies examined the mediating role
of rumination indirectly in the process of athletic performance:
one study with 305 competitive athletes examined the relationship
between anger rumination and athlete aggression based on
the Anger Rumination Scale (Maxwell, 2004). Results revealed
a signicant correlation between anger rumination and the
athletes’ reported aggressive behavior. However, a direct relation
of rumination and the athletes’ performance was not investigated.
A study by Scott etal. (2002) conrmed a negative correlation
between an overall measure of rumination (Scott-McIntosh
Rumination Inventory; Scott and McIntosh, 1999) and a
composite of measure of athletic performance of tennis players.
e main limitation of this study was the small sample size
(N = 10), which did not advocate a broad generalization. Roy
et al. (2016) investigated the relation between rumination and
performance in soccer and eld hockey players using the
Ruminative Response Scale (RRS; Treynor et al., 2003). ey
found an expertise eect mirrored in lower reective rumination
in athletes (professionals and nonprofessionals) compared with
non-athletes. Furthermore, Roy et al. (2016) assumed that low
scores on the RRS are associated with a longer career at a
higher level in soccer players. Here, the level of expertise
(professional vs. nonprofessional players) and the duration of
a successful sports career dened the athletes’ performance.
is suggests that at least success over the long term is correlated
with rumination. However, a recent study also suggests that
the achievement of short- and mid-term sports-specic goals
is related to rumination (see Kröhler and Berti, 2017).
e aim of the study was to investigate the assumed relation
between action orientation and rumination (see Kuhl, 1983,
1994a). As summarized above, the action control theory claims
that rumination is an eect of a lower action orientation (i.e.,
higher state orientation) under stress. As both, the individual
Kröhler and Berti Rumination and State Orientation in Sports
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 3 March 2019 | Volume 10 | Article 576
degree of action orientation as well as rumination, show
associations with sports performance, it remains open whether
a correlation of state orientation and rumination really exists
in athletes. erefore, we tested whether state orientation in
the context of failure is correlated with rumination in general.
e action control theory does not limit the theoretical claim
to a specic situation, which implies that such a correlation
should be observable in this highly selective population, too.
In contrast, competitive athletes are highly trained in performing
under pressure (i.e., in highly competitive situations) and,
therefore, might exhibit competences in coping especially with
potential or actual failures, which would result in increased
stress in a normal population. From this point of view, athletes
may not demonstrate a correlation between their levels of action
orientation and rumination (i.e., on the trait level). However,
even if athletes acquired specic competences in performing
under stress, it remains open whether these competences are
eective in general or in competitive situations only.
To date, dierent scales exists to measure action or state
orientation either in general (Kuhl, 1994b) or in sports-related
(Beckmann and Wenhold, 2009) context. Both measurements,
the general Action Control Scale (ACS-90; Kuhl, 1994b; German
Version: HAKEMP-90; Kuhl, 1990) and the sports-specic
measure of action orientation in competitive sports (German:
Handlungsorientierung im Sport; HOSP; Beckmann and Wenhold,
2009), consist of three subscales, namely (1) action orientation
subsequent to failure scale (German: Handlungsorientierung
nach Misserfolg; HOM), (2) prospective and decision-related
action orientation scale (German: Handlungsorientierung bei
Entscheidungs- und Handlungsplanung; HOP), and (3) action
orientation during (successful) performance of activities (German:
Handlungsorientierung bei Tätigkeitsausführung; HOT). Here
we focus on the rst subscale (HOM), which describes the
capability to suppress failures and refocus on the following
task immediately. With regard to rumination, we applied
rumination questionnaires from three dierent contexts: clinically
relevant rumination (RRQ, König, 2012), rumination in general
(PTQ, Ehring et al., 2011), and competition-related rumination
(modied from Krys et al., 2018).
We expect a relationship between HOM and rumination
because the action control theory assumes that higher failure-
related action orientation is associated with lower individual
rumination. To test this hypothesis, we rst conduct a
correlational analysis. In addition, weinvestigate this relationship
by applying linear robust regression analysis to quantify the
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Subjects and Procedure
Within a period of 3 months (October–December 2016), athletes
from dierent sports, including team sports as well as individual
sports, participated in an online study voluntarily. Weconducted
the study in compliance with the Declaration of Helsinki (World
Medical Association, 2013). e online instruction contained
information about the nature and the procedure of the study
and all participants gave consent before completing the
questionnaires. e participants received no incentives for
completion of the survey. For athletes under the age of 18,
we obtained additional consent from the legally authorized
representatives. e participants completed the action orientation
subsequent to failure scale (HOM, Beckmann and Wenhold,
2009), the Perseverative inking Questionnaire (PTQ; Ehring
et al., 2011), the Rumination scale from the Rumination-
Reection Questionnaire (RRQ; König, 2012) and a competition-
related rumination scale (KSR-WK; modied from Krys et al.,
2018). In addition to these, the participants lled out biographical
and sports-related questions as well as other questionnaires,
which were unrelated to the present study. We describe the
utilized questionnaires below.
Overall, 210 athletes participated in our online survey.
Criteria for selecting the subjects for our analysis were as
follows: athletes between 15 and 30years of age corresponding
to the athletic high-performance age (Willimczik et al., 2006;
Conzelmann, 2017) and a background in competitive sports.
e nal sample of athletes who met these criteria was 157
(female: n = 80, male: n = 77). Mean age was 21.57 years
(SD = 3.63). e athletes averaged 10.00 h (SD = 5.60) of
discipline-specic training in 4.46 training sessions (SD=2.54)
and 2.54 additional sessions (SD= 1.99; e.g., weight or athletic
training) per week. e averaged participation in competitions
per year was 13.40 (SD = 8.02). Besides, 32 athletes were
already part of the junior national team and 16 athletes were
part of the senior national team in their sports. Ten of these
48 athletes were in the junior as well as in the senior national
team of their sports. According to the categorization of Beckmann
and Wenhold (2009), the sample was assigned into six dierent
sport categories and two performance levels (see Table 1).
Depending on the organizational form of the disciplines (leagues
or squads system), the sample was divided into two performance
levels: performance level 1 includes all athletes belonging to
highest to the third highest national level (comparable with
A- to C-squad or First German Bundesliga as well as
participations in German/European/World Championships or
TABLE 1 | Distribution of athletes separated in sport categories, gender and
Female Male Female Male Sum
Ball sports-individual 1 1 3 2 7
Ball sports-team 7 5 13 23 48
Endurance sports-individual 24 25 19 15 83
Coordinative-compositional 6 2 5 0 13
Martial arts 0 2 1 2 5
Target focus 1 0 0 0 1
Sum 39 35 41 42 157
Examples: ball sports-individual=(table) tennis; ball sports-team=basketball, football;
conditioning-individual=swimming, athletics; coordinative-compositional=rhythmic
gymnastics, snowboard; martial arts=boxing, taekwondo; target focus=billiard, sport
Kröhler and Berti Rumination and State Orientation in Sports
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 4 March 2019 | Volume 10 | Article 576
Olympic Games; n = 74). Performance level 2 includes all
athletes belonging to the fourth highest or subjacent level
(comparable with D-squad, Second German Bundesliga or
below as well as participation in German Junior or regional
championships; n = 83).
Failure-Related Action Orientation
We measured the failure-related action orientation with the
German action orientation in sports questionnaire (HOSP,
Beckmann and Wenhold, 2009). e HOSP is a standardized
self-evaluation assessment with 36 items, consisting of three scales:
action orientation subsequent to failure, decision-related action
orientation, and action orientation during performance. Each
scale consists of 12 items, which describe a particular situation.
Each item has two alternative answers (A or B), one of which
is indicative of action orientation and the other of state orientation.
For the present study, only the action orientation subsequent to
failure scale is relevant (HOM). e HOM measures the athletes’
ability to cope with failures and focus again on new demands.
For athletes with lower values on this scale compared to those
with higher values, it is dicult to cope with failures. ey ght
intensively with the setback, by what they may aect the execution
of following tasks. For instance: “If I miss a clear chance of
winning …” then A: “it sticks in my mind during the rest of
the competition” (state orientation), or B: “I forget this failed
attempt and concentrate on the next chance” (action orientation)
[translations from the German original by AK].
Athletes earn one point for choosing the action-oriented
answer. e sum of the action-oriented answers for each scale
is between 0 and 12. e following applies: the higher the
characteristics in the action orientation subsequent to failure
scale, the higher the action orientation in this context.
e German version of the Perseverative inking Questionnaire
(PTQ; Ehring etal., 2011) is a questionnaire independent from
content for measuring repetitive negative thoughts. e PTQ
consists of 15 items and is rated on a 5-point Likert scale,
ranging from “0” (never) to “4” (almost always). In each case,
three items correspond to a process characteristic of repetitive
negative thinking, building one subscale: (1a) repetitive (e.g.,
“e same thoughts keep going through my mind again and
again”), (1b) intrusive (e.g., “oughts come to my mind without
me wanting them to”), (1c) dicult to disengage from (e.g.,
“I can’t stop dwelling on them”), (2) unproductive (e.g., “I keep
asking myself questions without nding an answer”), (3) capturing
mental capacity (e.g., “My thought prevent me from focusing
on other things”; all items are taken from the English original).
e PTQ provides three scores for the particular subscales
as well as a general PTQ score, which is the sum of the three
subscales’ scores. Here, we report the general PTQ score. e
internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha: α) for the entire PTQ
is α = 0.95 for the original and α = 0.94 for the present
sample. erefore, the analysis of the internal consistency in
the present sample supports previous ndings.
Trapnell and Campbell (1999) developed the Rumination-
Reection Questionnaire (RRQ), for dierentiating rumination
and reection, two relevant factors of private dispositional self-
focus. e original version comprises 24 items in two scales:
12 items for rumination as well as for reection. In the present
study, weutilized the German version (König, 2012) and applied
only the Rumination scale. is scale measures the self-attentiveness
motivated by perceived threats, losses, or injustices to the self
(Trapnell and Campbell, 1999). For instance, “Oen I’m playing
back over in my mind how Iacted in a past situation.” Athletes
rate the dierent statements on a 5-point Likert scale presenting
the level of agreement ranging from “1” (strongly disagree) to
“5” (strongly agree). e value of the items 6, 9, and 10 should
bereversed. e individual test score can becalculated by adding
up all values of the 12 items. erefore, the scores are ranging
between 12 and 60, and the higher the scores the higher the
individual level of rumination. e internal consistency for the
original sample is α = 0.90 (Trapnell and Campbell, 1999) and
for the present sample α = 0.88.
We used a questionnaire from Krys etal. (2018) for measuring
the handling with diculties in the context of a competition.
e original version contains eight items according to learning-
related diculties during the preparation for a statistic exam
(for instance, “I can’t stop thinking about learning-related
problems”). e original questionnaire was developed in the
way that the problem-related context is changeable. erefore,
we modied the items (Krys et al., 2018) to competition-
related problems (KSR-WK); e.g., “I can’t stop thinking about
competition-related problems.” Athletes respond on a 5-point
Likert scale, ranging from “1” (does not apply at all) to “5”
e individual test score can be calculated by adding up
all values of the eight items. erefore, the scores are ranging
between 8 and 40 and; again, the higher the scores the higher
the individual level of rumination. e internal consistency
for the original sample lies between α = 0.91 and α = 0.94
(Krys et al., 2018) and for the present sample α = 0.92.
We analyzed the relationship between failure-related action
orientation and rumination by means of three single robust
regression models. In doing so, failure-related action orientation
represents the independent variable and the scales of PTQ,
RRQ and KSR-WK represent the dependent variable for each
single regression model. Beforehand, wechecked the requirements
for the application of regression analyses. We generated Q-Q
plots for testing the assumption of normal distribution (Kabaco,
2015), conducted analyses for testing the independence of the
predictor variable including the standard errors (Durbin-Watson
Test; Field et al., 2012) as well as the multi-collinearity of all
used variables (VIF: variance ination factor; Field etal., 2012).
Except the normal distribution, all requirements for regression
analyses were fullled. In addition, we analyzed outliers and
inuential cases using Cook’s distance, leverage values, and
Kröhler and Berti Rumination and State Orientation in Sports
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 5 March 2019 | Volume 10 | Article 576
the proportion of co-variances (Field etal., 2012). While there
were no outliers in the data, Cook’s distance revealed the
existence of inuential cases. ese could have a considerable
impact of the constant and the gradient of the regression
model. We decided not to exclude the inuential cases from
further calculation. Instead, weapplied robust regression analyses
with a MM-estimation (a kind of maximum-likelihood estimation;
Susanti and Pratiwi, 2014). is method uses a criterion, which
is less vulnerable for inuential cases. It has also a high
breakdown value (general measurement of the proportion of
inuential cases, which are edited before inuencing the
regression model; Susanti and Pratiwi, 2014). Hence, the robust
method is more appropriate in calculating regressions. Moreover,
it is possible to conduct the regression analyses with all observed
cases by restricting the eect of inuential cases via Coo k’s
distance and high leverage values at the same time.
Table 2 sums up the descriptive statistics among the study
variables for all competitive athletes (N = 157).
e results of the correlational analysis revealed signicant
associations between failure-related action orientation (HOM)
and the three rumination scales (PTQ, RRQ, KSR-WK; p<0.05;
alpha corrected with Holm, see Figure 1). Figure 2 demonstrates
that there is a substantial, inter-individual variation in all three
rumination measures in the participating athletes but the robust
regression analyses indicated that failure-related action orientation
signicantly predicts rumination (see Tab le 3). In addition,
wedetermined the power of our regression analyses (G*Power
3.1.; Faul etal., 2009) with the sample size N = 157, an alpha
level α = 0.001, and the obtained medium eect sizes; this
analyses revealed a power of 0.9998 for the PTQ regression
(f 2 = 0.30), 0.9997 for the RRQ regression (f 2 = 0.28), and
0.9999 for the KSR-WK regression (f 2 = 0.32).
Our study demonstrates in competitive athletes a direct
relationship of rumination and action orientation aer failure.
is supports the claims of the action control theory (Kuhl,
1983, 1994a) and does suggest an expansion to context-specic
situations (here, competitive sports). e correlational analyses
show middle to strong association between failure-related
action orientation and all three rumination scales. Findings
of the regression analyses support our hypothesis, in the
way that failure-related action orientation is a signicant
predictor for rumination as reected in a general, a clinically
oriented as well as a competition-related measure. It is worth
noting that the explained variance in the regression analyses
is about 20% for all three rumination measures. On the one
hand, this indicates that a general “ruminative” factor is
shared by these dierent measures and that this aspect of
rumination indeed is linked to action control (as assumed
by Kuhl, 1983, 1994a). On the other hand, this leaves a lot
of variability in the data, which is not explained by individual
level of action orientation. While this might be attributed
to dierent specic characteristics of rumination captured
by these particular scales (e.g., well-being in a clinical context
vs. negative outcome in the context of a competition), this
may also suggest that neither of the applied rumination scales
is already suitable for a competitive athletes’ population.
However, the correlation between the competition-related
rumination (KSR-WK) and the general rumination scale (PTQ)
indicates that the applied variant of the KSR-WK (Krys etal.,
2018) does tap rumination in a specic context. Both variables
share a common variance of nearly 40%, indicating that
besides the general factor an independent competitive specic
In general, our ndings are in line with previous studies
(e.g., Beckmann and Trux, 1991; Beckmann and Kazén, 1994)
and indicated that rumination might be a relevant factor for
individual requirements in competitive sports. As the aim of
coaches in competitive sports is to help athletes to gain their
optimal performance, additional information about athletes’
disposition in relevant mental factors may allow coaches to
adapt to the individual needs of their athletes. For instance,
in team sports, the knowledge about the athletes’ level of
action or state orientation could be benecial when selecting
playing positions or deciding ball allocation strategies depending
on dierent gaming situations. is is suggested by a study
of Beckmann and Trux (1991), who showed that key players
in high-performance professional sports tend to bestate oriented
rather than action oriented, whereas the strikers were mainly
action oriented. Beckmann and Kossok (2018) suggested applying
the knowledge of athletes’ dispositions in order to selectively
introduce them to dierent disciplines or positions in which
their personal dispositions might promise particular success.
erefore, from the perspective of applied sports psychology,
the concept of rumination oers a number of potential
applications. For instance, athletes and coaches typically
perceived ruminative thoughts (especially with negative content)
as a limiting factor for gaining high performance. One aim
could be to identify athletes with a predisposition toward
extensive rumination especially in younger ages. It is also
promising to support young talents in their ability to control
repetitive disruptive thoughts, because many athletes perform
suboptimally in pressure situations despite a high motivation
to succeed (Baumeister and Showers, 1986). Well-known
moderators for suboptimal performance in pressure situations
TABLE 2 | Descriptive statistics among the study variables for all competitive
M SD SE Median Skew Kurtosis 95% CI
HOM 6.35 3.12 0.25 6 −.0.09 −0.83 [5.86, 6.84]
PTQ 25.5 10.66 0.85 24 0.52 0.52 [23.82, 27.18]
RRQ 37.07 9.02 0.72 38 −0.06 −0.39 [35.65, 38.49]
KSR-WK 19.37 7.11 0.57 19 0.51 −0.36 [18.25, 20.49]
M, mean; SD, standard deviation; SE, standard error of mean; 95% CI, 95% condence
Kröhler and Berti Rumination and State Orientation in Sports
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 6 March 2019 | Volume 10 | Article 576
(choking under pressure) are among others trait anxiety,
reinvestment, and perfectionism, which are all closely related
to rumination (Flett etal., 2002; Nolen-Hoeksema etal., 2008;
Kinrade et al., 2010). To this end, early identication of the
individual dispositional rumination at the beginning of a sports
career might enable a more eective support by application
of treatments to avoid rumination (and thereby potential stress)
in the long run. For instance, Roy et al. (2016) report a
relationship between a successful sports career and a low
reective rumination style. Existing therapeutic interventions
related to rumination (see Broderick, 2005; Nolen-Hoeksema
etal., 2008; Watkins, 2008; Van Aalderen etal., 2012; Querstret
and Cropley, 2013) therefore, might beadapted to the non-clinical
group of athletes on the one hand. On the other hand, recent
studies (Birrer et al., 2012; Mosewich et al., 2013; Josefsson
et al., 2017) deal with rumination-related interventions in
competitive sports. Contents of these interventions focused
mainly on self-compassion (Mosewich et al., 2013) and
mindfulness (Josefsson et al., 2017). Results already show an
improved regulation of maladaptive thoughts, feelings, and
behavior and therefore provide a promising approach for
Study Limitations and Future Directions
Our study revealed correlations between failure-related action
orientation and rumination in three dierent contexts in
competitive athletes. However, the time of survey was far away
from the actual competition or a special failure-related situation.
erefore, weonly received information about individual traits
and cannot rule out that the obtained correlations are modulated
by the experience of an upcoming or actual competition. is
limits also our current understanding of whether the action
orientation and rumination link is more of a trait or state.
One future direction is to survey athletes immediately aer
the competition or a failure-related situation. For instance,
ambulatory assessment with an event-based design could provide
a promising approach: within a dened period, athletes could
complete a short questionnaire related to action orientation
and rumination immediately aer the experience. is could
also serve as an interesting starting point in gaining more
information about dierences in individual action orientation
and the consequences of it. An open question is whether there
is a direct link between failure-related action orientation and
individual rumination. Due to the cross-sectional design (only
one measurement), the results are only correlational in nature.
FIGURE 1 | Summary of the Pearson correlations coefcients (r) between action orientation subsequent to failure scale and three rumination scales. The diagonal
depicts the individual scales used in this study. The arrays under the diagonal depict the correlational coefcients of the particular scales (all p’s<0.05 [Holm
corrected p’s for multiple comparisons]; all df ’s=155). The arrays above the diagonal illustrate these values in a symbolic way with the size of the circles specifying
the extent of the parameter value (values between 0 and 1) and the color of the circles depicting the direction of the parameter value (positive or negative; see color
scale at the right).
Kröhler and Berti Rumination and State Orientation in Sports
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 7 March 2019 | Volume 10 | Article 576
In other words, additional research is required to investigate
whether the relation of failure-related action orientation and
rumination is replicable and generalizable in a broader population.
e action control theory by Kuhl (1983, 1994a) claimed a
link of rumination and state orientation and, therefore, provides
a theoretical framework for examination of the negative eect
of both on athletic performance. Here we demonstrate that
this hypothesis in general holds in a very specialized population,
namely competitive athletes. is suggests that both, the action
control theory and the theoretical considerations related to
rumination may oer further routes of investigating the nature
of individual performance variations in athletes under stress,
e.g., in the context of a competition.
e datasets generated for this study are available on request
to the corresponding author.
e study was conducted in accordance with the Declaration
of Helsinki and the Ethical Code of the German Society for
Psychology (DGPs) and all subjects gave written informed
consent prior to their participation in the study. In the case
of our selection of participants (all healthy persons) and our
study design the local ethics committee at the Institute for
Psychology do not ask for an approvement.
FIGURE 2 | Scatterplots of failure-related action orientation (HOM; range 0–12) and rumination (N=157). In detail, HOM is plotted with (A) rumination in general
(PTQ; range 0–60), (B) clinically relevant rumination (RRQ; range 12–60), and (C) competition-related rumination (KSR-WK; range 8–40). The regression lines are
based on robust linear regressions of HOM with the respective rumination measure (for details see text).
TABLE 3 | Characteristics of the single robust regression analyses with failure-
related action orientation as predictor and three rumination scales as criterion.
Criterion Predictor B SE B βpR2
PTQ HOM −1.57 0.24 −0.46 <0.001 0.23
RRQ HOM −1.25 0.17 −0.48 <0.001 0.22
KSR-WK HOM −1.13 0.19 −0.50 <0.001 0.24
Kröhler and Berti Rumination and State Orientation in Sports
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 8 March 2019 | Volume 10 | Article 576
AK and SB contributed with the conception and design of
the study. AK collected the data and performed the statistical
analysis, and AK and SB wrote the manuscript.
We would like to thank all clubs and sports organizations for
cooperating with us and all athletes, who participated in
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Conict of Interest Statement: e authors declare that the research was conducted
in the absence of any commercial or nancial relationships that could beconstrued
as a potential conict of interest.
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