Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Determinants of Self-Handicapping Strategies in Sport and Their Effects on Athletic Performance

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Determinants of Self-Handicapping Strategies in Sport and Their Effects on Athletic Performance

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to examine self-efficacy and self-esteem as predictors of claimed and behavioral self-handicapping, and to compare the relationship between behavioral and claimed self-handicaps and athletic performance. A total of 31 basketball players participated in the study. Claimed self-handicaps were significantly negatively correlated with self-esteem whereas behavioral self-handicapping was significantly negatively correlated with self-efficacy. Performance was negatively correlated with behavioral self-handicapping, but was not correlated with claimed self-handicapping. These findings reinforce the conceptual distinction between claimed and behavioral self-handicaps by demonstrating that the two strategies are indeed related to different factors and that they have different consequences for performance.

Keywords: self-handicapping, self-esteem, self-confidence, performance, sport.

Berglas and Jones (1978) defined self-handicapping as "any action or choice of performance setting that enhances the opportunity to externalize (or excuse) failure and to internalize (reasonable accept credit for) success" (p. 406). From an attributional perspective, self-handicaps blur the relationship between ability and performance. Thus, a self-handicapping athlete who performs poorly can attribute failure to the performance impediment rather than ability or competence, whereas the athlete who performs well creates the impression of being especially competent and talented because success was achieved despite impediments (Tice, 1991).

Theorists have highlighted the important conceptual distinction between behavioral and claimed self-handicapping (e.g., Hirt, Deppe, & Gordon, 1991; Leary & Shepperd, 1986). However, effort has not been directed toward finding out whether each has different determinants. The majority of the published sport studies have been focused on determinants of claimed self-handicapping (e.g., Kuczka & Treasure, 2005; Martin & Brawley, 2002) or on determinants of behavioral self-handicapping (e.g., Berglas & Jones, 1978; Pyszczynski & Greenberg, 1983). The few researchers who have examined both types have assumed common determinants (e.g., Elliot, Cury, Fryer, & Huguet, 2006; Thompson & Richardson, 2001).

Behavioral self-handicaps are a more costly, riskier strategy than claimed self-handicaps. For example, not practicing can provide an excuse for poor performance, but also decreases the likelihood of a successful performance. In contrast, simply claiming to be too anxious or tired also serves as an excuse for poor performance, but does not actually reduce the likelihood of success (see Hirt et al., 1991). Given these differences, it is possible that different factors underlie the use of these two strategies (see Coudevylle, Famose, Martin Ginis, & Gernigon, 2008). Knowledge of these factors would contribute to a better understanding of predictors of serf-handicapping and the development of interventions to alter the use of self-handicaps.

Athletes who use behavioral self-handicaps may take such a risk because they are convinced of an impending performance failure. In line with this reasoning, Pyszczynski and Greenberg (1983) showed that participants in a low probability of success condition intended to exert less effort on an upcoming highly ego-relevant task than did participants in a high probability of success condition. As social cognitive theory proposes that maladaptive behaviors - such as reduced effort - result primarily from low expectations of mastery in an uncertain situation (Bandura, 1986, 1997), it is plausible to assume that the use of behavioral self-handicaps may be linked to situation-specific low levels of performance self-efficacy.

By contrast, athletes who use claimed self-handicaps may suffer from more general serf-doubts; they may not necessarily believe that failure is imminent, but they may have weak beliefs about their general levels of capability, success and self-worth. …

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