Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Social Connections at Sporting Events: Attendance and Its Positive Relationship with State Social Psychological Well-Being

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Social Connections at Sporting Events: Attendance and Its Positive Relationship with State Social Psychological Well-Being

Article excerpt

The current investigation examined the state social psychological health (i.e., social life satisfaction and loneliness) of individuals while they attended a sporting event and while they were at their place of residence. Based on the Team Identification--Social Psychological Health Model (Wann, 2006), it was hypothesized that the participants (who as a group were highly identified with one of the teams in competition) would report more positive levels of well-being at the game relative to their residence. Data collected from 53 individuals tested at a collegiate basketball game and then again three to six weeks later at their residence confirmed expectations.

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According to the Team Identification--Social Psychological Health Model (TI-SPHM; Wann, 2006), levels of sport team identification (i.e., psychological connections with a sport team, see Wann, Melnick, Russell, & Pease, 2001) can be positively associated with social psychological well-being. According to the model, team identification leads to valuable social connections with others. Two types of social connections are generated from identifying with a sport team: enduring and temporary. Enduring connections result from residing in an environment in which other fans of the team are highly salient (e.g., a fan of the University of Kansas men's basketball team who lives on campus at the university). Temporary connections are predicted to occur when individuals who do not reside in an environment containing enduring connections find themselves momentarily in the presence of other fans of the team (e.g., a fan of the University of Kansas men's basketball team who lives in the town of a rival team, but who is watching the team on television with several of his friends who are also fans of the team). The enduring and temporary connections are predicted to impact both trait and state well-being. The model posits further that the relationship between team identification and social well-being is moderated by identity threat (e.g., poor team performance) and various strategies used to cope with the threat.

Empirical support for the TI-SPHM is strong. In terms of the relationship between team identification and well-being, identification with a salient team has been shown to be positively correlated with social self-esteem, social well-being, and vigor (Wann, 1994; Wann, Inman, Ensor, Gates, & Caldwell, 1999; Wann & Pierce, 2005) and negatively related to loneliness, depression, and alienation (Branscombe & Wann, 1991; Wann, Dimmock, & Grove, 2003). Also consistent with the theory, research indicates that fans are threatened by poor team performance (Hirt, Zillmann, Erickson, & Kennedy, 1992; Wann, Dolan, McGeorge, & Allison, 1994). Finally, research has documented numerous strategies fans use to cope with the threat, including biased attributions and evaluations of the team (Ungar & Sev'er, 1989; Wann & Dolan, 1994; Wann & Grieve, 2005; Wann et al., 2006; Wann & Schrader, 2000), and these strategies are often successful (Bizman & Yinon, 2002).

While much of the model has been tested and supported empirically, several links have yet to receive adequate examination. One such area involves the impact of team identification and the resulting social connections on state social psychological health (e.g., loneliness, collective self-esteem, alienation). As noted by Wann (2006), research to date has focused almost exclusively on trait well-being while paying little attention to state well-being. The current investigation was designed to partially fill this research void by examining the state well-being of a sample of highly identified fans. The fans' social well-being was assessed in two locations: at a sporting arena during a contest involving their team and at their residence (e.g., home, dormitory). It was hypothesized that state levels of social well-being would be more positive at the game than at their place of residence. …

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