Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Associations between Self-Presentation and Competitive A-Trait: A Preliminary Investigation

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Associations between Self-Presentation and Competitive A-Trait: A Preliminary Investigation

Article excerpt

Leary (1992) suggests that sports anxiety stems from the Self-Presentation (SP) implications of competition. Some research supports this (e.g., Wilson & Eklund, 1998) and the aim of this study was to expand this research base. Fifty-nine competitive middle distance runners completed the Sport Anxiety Scale [Smith, Smoll & Schultz, 1990, assessing worry (W), concentration disruption (CD) and somatic anxiety (SA)]. Only 2 of the 4 SP concerns assessed by the CSPCI (Williams, Hudson & Lawson, 1999), were associated with anxiety. Regression analyses showed that concern over others' impressions predicted W (RI= 0.41, p<0.01), CD (R-=0.09, p<0.01), and concern over current form, SA (R2--0.47, p<0.01). Results support a link between SP and competitive anxiety and the need to consider athletes' SP concerns in anxiety management strategies.

It has long been recognized that competitive sports events can be a stress/anxiety provoking experience for athletes. Sport psychologists have, therefore, devoted a great deal of time to identifying and explaining the relationship between anxiety and competitive sport performance. Currently, there is much interest in determining the causes and correlates of competitive stress/anxiety. In practical terms, this is an important question to address. Martin and Mack (1996) claim that stress/ anxiety management strategies will be most successful when they are based on the sources of the athlete's stress/anxiety. As Leary (1992) highlights, very few research efforts have addressed the fundamental issue of what makes people nervous when they enter into competition with others; a sentiment echoed by Wilson and Eklund (1998). One possible explanation for athletes' stress/anxiety which has recently come to the fore is that this phenomenon derives largely from the selfpresentation (SP) implications of competitive sport.

SP can be either a conscious or an unconscious process whereby the individual monitors and attempts to regulate the impression of themselves that they convey to others (Leary, 1992). The aim of this process is to influence perceptions that others have of oneself, and its success can be gauged by the reaction of the target audience (Schlenker & Leary, 1982). There are a number of ways in which SP is relevant in sport. For instance, if the individual wishes to convey to others the image of someone who is fit and athletic, sport may offer a means of doing so (Grove & Dodder, 1982). Conversely, sport may carry negative SP implications if the athlete is always selected as the team substitute (Leary, 1992). Moreover, in sport, the outcome is highly valued and often mediated by significant others (such as the coach or team selectors), performance is publicly visible, and the image invoked in this context and portrayed to others is likely to be central to the athlete's social identity. According to Schlenker & Leary (1982), these are all factors that increase the individual's motivation to manage the impressions which are conveyed. In support of this, James and Collins (1995) questioned over 300 athletes and identified that, for them, impression management (IM) is a salient process that can facilitate both career and identity development.

However, it may not always be possible for the athlete to convey a target image to others; thus, a discrepancy exists between the desired and the currently portrayed image. A likely product of this is social anxiety - anxiety stemming from potential or actual personal evaluation in social situations that are either real or imagined (Schlenker & Leary, 1982). This anxiety is experienced whenever there is a motive to impress others and the individual perceives that they are unable to predict, control and obtain desired outcomes; in other words, to achieve an SP goal (Schlenker & Leary, 1982; Seligman, 1975). Clearly, given the degree of SP threat possible in the competitive sporting environment, athletes may experience social anxiety when they do not feel confident that their SP efforts will be successful. …

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