Relative Constancy of Personality Characteristics and Efficacy of a 12-Month Training Program in Facilitating Coping Strategies

Article excerpt

The present study reports a sublongitudinal experiment involving 15 employees (4 male and 11 female) of an insurance company all of whom underwent a 12-month program of intensive mental training and physical coaching in order to ascertain whether or not certain characteristics of personality, attitudes, beliefs or performance would be altered. Each participant was assessed on a battery of different questionnaires including: background variables, Change and Stability, Life Orientation test, Coping Resources Inventory and the Gordon personal profile and inventory. There was no change in Dispositional optimism or ten other related personality traits. Only four of the personality variables were altered on completion of the training program: the participants' self-evaluations were elevated, the stability of their norms and system of values was reinforced, their emotional stability was reinforced also, and their receptivity to new ideas/innovations was reinforced. These results are discussed in the context of the relative constancy of personality characteristics and the suitability of the observed changes, after the 12-month program, in promoting strategies of coping behavior.

Keywords: Dispositional optimism, emotional stability, longitudinal, original thinking, personality.

A multitude of studies has been performed to examine whether or not successful athletes may be distinguished from less successful athletes on the basis of different personality traits. Traits such as aggression, receptiveness-to-coaching, conscientiousness, determination, drive, emotional control, guilt-proneness, leadership qualities, mental toughness, self-confidence, trust, competitiveness and achievement-motivation have been tested in this context. Taken together, these studies seem to have achieved a moderate degree of success in relating certain personal characteristics to success in sport (Jarvis, 1999), despite the lack of confirmation from several other studies (e.g., Davis, 1991).

However, Rettew and Reivich (1995) report on three earlier investigations, using the Attributional Style Questionnaire and the Content Analysis of Verbatim Explanations as instruments (Schulman, Castellon, & Seligman, 1989). These studies demonstrated that teams and athletes with optimistic explanatory styles went on to perform better than did their competitors with pessimistic styles, especially under pressure or following a defeat. It was suggested that the mechanism here was that those with an optimistic explanatory style had greater ability to recover from setbacks. The results suggested, even though there was no instrument that directly measured the concept of optimism, that optimism should be included as an important variable in future research.

Folkesson, Nyberg, Archer and Norlander (2002) investigated to what extent the results of Rettew and Reivich (1995) may be qualified even under the application of a direct measure of optimism, and therefore used the Life Orientation Test (LOT), which provides a measure of dispositional optimism (Scheier & Carver, 1985), in a study of soccer referees' experience of threat and aggression. The results indicated that both pessimistically oriented and optimistically oriented referees experienced themselves as being exposed to threat and aggression to an equivalent degree, but that pessimistic referees suffered more from the effects. Pessimistically oriented referees experienced greater problems of motivation and their performance tended to deteriorate in comparison with those who were optimistically oriented. Further, the pessimistic referees had greater problems coping with aggressive behavior from the spectators.

Norlander and Archer (2002) investigated in two studies the utility of three psychological tests regarding the prediction of sport performance: the Profile of Mood States, Ratings of Perceived Exertion, and Dispositional Optimism. In the first study young male and female cross-country skiers and ski-marksmen in final preparation for the Junior National Swedish Championships were tested. …