Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Big Five Personality Traits and Risky Sport Participation

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Big Five Personality Traits and Risky Sport Participation

Article excerpt

Previous attempts to identify relationships between generally risky behavior, participation in risky sports, and personality factors have been focused on sensation seeking (SS), which is defined as "the need for varied, novel, and complex sensations and experiences and the willingness to take physical and social risks for the sake of such experiences" (Zuckerman, 1979, p. 10). Many researchers have used Zuckerman's Sensation Seeking Scale-V (SSS-V; Zuckerman, 1983), which assesses four aspects of SS: thrill and adventure seeking (TAS), experience seeking (ES), disinhibition (DIS), and boredom susceptibility (BS). In these studies it has been revealed that there are significant associations between risky sport participation and SS facets. For example, Freixanet (1991) found that risky sport participants (mountain climbers, water skiers, motorcyclists, and scuba divers) have higher TAS, ES, and total SS scores than controls. Similarly, Diehm and Armatas (2004) showed that SS may be useful in discriminating between participants in high (surfing) and low (golf) risk sports.

The first Sensation Seeking Scale (Zuckerman, Kolin, Price, & Zoob, 1964) was developed based on the theory that "every individual has characteristic levels of stimulation and arousal for cognitive activity, motor activity, and positive affective tone" (Zuckerman, 1969, p. 429). Zuckerman (1979) also stated that "a high-sensation seeker was conceived as someone who was happiest and functioned best at a high tonic level of arousal and therefore behaved in a way that would maintain such a high level" (p. 315). In addition, "high-sensation seekers would seek stimulation in order to elevate arousal level to their optimum level" (Stelmack, 2004, p. 24). From this point of view, an expectation of a positive relationship between SS and risky sport participation is logical. However, when considering Zuckerman's (1992) suggestion that SS is more closely related to physical sensation than to cognition, it might be argued that the concept of SS may not be adequate to fully explain motives for risky sport participation. Zuckerman (1992) further suggests that risk taking is not an essential motivation for sensation seeking behaviors. This means that in addition to physical factors, cognitive factors may play a role in risky sport participation.

According to Diehm and Armatas (2004), Openness to Experience (OE), a dimension in the Big Five model of personality (McCrae & Costa, 2003), may represent the cognitive aspect of SS. In fact, McCrae (1987) found significant relationships between OE and total SS scores, as well as between OE and subscale scores in the SSS-V. The most notable correlation was with ES (r = .45), which is defined as "the seeking of arousal through the mind and senses" (Zuckerman, 1984). As OE may be a trait common to adventure/ risky sport participants, knowledge of such a relationship could be valuable in planning effective marketing for this type of tourism activity. For this reason, an examination of the effect of OE on adventure/risky sport participation is merited.

Another reason to investigate the Big Five correlates of adventure/risky sport participation stems from the findings gained in several factor analytic studies that indicate that impulsiveness and SS load on the same factor as the Big Five dimension Conscientiousness (C) (Aluja, Garcia, & Garcia, 2004; Zuckerman, Kuhlman, Joireman, Teta, & Kraft, 1993). Despite the associations between C and SS, the possible role of C in adventure/risky sport participation is not clear.

It has been stated in several studies (Ewert, 1994; Llewellyn & Sanchez, 2008; Slanger & Rudestam, 1997) that SS theory does not explain how risk takers are able to cope with the state of anxiety associated with risky behaviors that would deter others from engaging in such behaviors. These statements indicate that adventure/risky sport participation should be negatively related to the Big Five dimension neuroticism (N), which is characterized by low self-confidence, a higher level of arousal, and a predisposition to anxiety and stress (Somer, Korkmaz, & Tatar, 2004). …

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