Role Of Attributions In Sport Psychology

Attributions are reasons individuals give to explain a particular behaviour or outcome. They are often used to help improve a person’s ability to control a variety of future social and psychological situations (Anderson and Riger, 1991). According to Weiner (1985) a person who experiences success is likely going to try and reintroduce the same causes, whereas Kelley (1973) explains someone who experiences failure is going do attributional search in hopes a better chance of succeeding in the future.

Therefore, with the help of attributions individuals can develop a better understanding of events and their outcomes in an effort to repeat or avoid them in the future. Being able to understand and name attributions has a big impact on future performance, whether in sport or academia. As such, an understanding of reasons for failure or success can lead to a more appropriate approach to similar future situations. As explained by Malle (2011), it was Fritz Heider who first sparked interest in attribution research in psychology with his 1920 dissertation and following research on object perception and person perception.

Heider’s studies in this area led him to find that individuals process data from observing inanimate objects or other individuals and use that data to attribute causes for behaviour (Malle, 2011). While Malle (2011) goes on to argue many attribution researchers have misrepresented Heider’s work, including crediting him for the external-internal (or person-situation) attribution dichotomy (Weary, Edwards, & Riley, 1994), it is important to note that his research continues to be extremely valuable to the study of outcome attributions. Heider strongly advocated Bernard Weiner’s work in this area (Malle, 2011).

It was Weiner (1979, 1985, 1986) and Weiner et al. (1972) who created developed an attributional theory in regards to motivation and emotion. While the theory was developed in a classroom setting (Weiner 1972; Weiner 1976; Weiner 1979), it is frequently used today in sport (e. g. , McAuley, 1985; Orbach, Singer, & Murphey, 1997; Miserandino, 1998). Weiner’s (1985) attributional research has focused on three principal dimensions: locus, controllability and stability. Weiner (1985) attributes the introduction of locus of causality, or the internal-external dimension, to Rotter’s 1966 work.

Weiner himself termed the controllability dimension, which divides explanations into controllable and uncontrollable, in 1979. In a study examining these two dimensions, Wong and Weiner (1981) found participants in their study often named an internal, controllable attribution for an unwanted outcome but an external, uncontrollable attribution for a successful outcome. Finally, Weiner added the third dimension of stability in 1985, which can be defined as the degree to which a person believes a specific situation will occur again in the future or not.

He predicted stability to be particularly key in terms of anticipating further success following successful performances (Weiner, 1985). Weiner is not the only academic to have developed attributional models that continue to be used in sport psychology, however. Abramson, Seligman and Teasdale (1978) developed an attribution model based on learned helplessness. Their focus was placed upon the notion that future uncontrollability is linked to learned helplessness, which is moderated by the attributions stability (as used by Weiner), universality and globality.

Universality is divided into personal and universal helplessness, meaning a person may view the uncontrollable situation personal (is unique) or universal (everyone is experiencing it), while globality refers to an individual attributing the uncontrollable situation either to occur in general (i. e. all or many) or in specific situations. Abramson et al. ’s model has been criticized, however, by Weiner (1991) due to its focus on uncontrollable situation as he claims controllability should be its own dimension in attributional research.

Furthermore, other researchers argue that controllability is the most important dimension (Anderson & Deuser, 1993; Anderson & Riger, 1991; Grove & Pargman, 1986), particularly in sport (e. g. , Rudisill, 1989), as people tend to attribute their outcomes in order to identify how best to have control of future situations (Rees, Ingledew & Hardy, 2005). Attribution theory in sport In sport, people try to find explanations for their performance (Rees et al. , 2005), especially following perceived failure (Lau & Russell, 1980; Wong & Weiner, 1981).

While some studies have demonstrated the benefits of using Weiner? (1985) three-dimensional attributional model (Orbach, & Singer, 1997) and its resulting measurement instrument (the Causal Dimension Scales), Rees et al. (2005) have suggested research should focus upon controllability alongside the stability, globality, and universality attributions dimensions.

Other researchers have echoed this need to examine other attribution dimensions, such as Hanrahan and Cerin (2009) who said “…sport psychology attribution research might need to expand its focus and examine attributional dimensions other than internality, stability, and controllability” (p. 11), and Crocker, Eklund and Graham (2002) who called for the development of additional tools to measure attributions. Following these recommendations, Coffee and Rees (2008b) developed the CSGU.

This four-factor attribution measure focuses upon the dimension of controllability as well as the generalizability dimensions stability, globality and universality. Their subsequent studies have used the CSGU to examine the main and interactive effects of these four dimensions on subsequent self-efficacy (Coffee & Rees, 2008b; Coffee & Rees, 2008a; Coffee & Rees, 2009), group outcomes (Coffee, Greenlees & Allen, 2015) and body image (Crocker et al. 2014).

Attributions and sport performance Few studies have been conducted regarding the influence attributions have on sporting performance, and findings are inconsistent (Coffee, Rees & Haslam, 2009). Previous research in this area has focused on basketball players (Orbach et al. , 1997; Miserandino, 1998), beginner tennis players (Orbach et al. , 1999), gymnasts (McAuley, 1985) and golfers (Bond, Biddle, & Ntoumanis, 2001; Le Foll et al. , 2008).

While Rudisill (1988) and Orbach, Singer and Price (1999) were unable to identify effects of attributions on subsequent performance, Orbach et al. (1997) found evidence that focusing on controllable and unstable attributions has the potential to enhance future performance. Furthermore, Miserandino (1998) found attribution training can improve shooting scores in basketball. Rejeski and Brawly (1983) note there is a tendency to focus on beginners and that half of studies use students as participants.

They similarly criticize that the majority of studies have focused on team sports, leaving questions whether findings can be applied to individual sports, particularly as measuring attributions in a group setting can be difficult as people tend to manage their attributions to prevent shame in front of peers (Rejeski & Brawly, 1983). There remains a severe lack of attributional research in tournament settings – arguably the setting in which performance is most important.

It is also important to note that attribution research in sport performance must differ from other attribution research in that its typical focus on negative and positive events must account for the fact that, in sport, success and failure are often subjective rather than objective (Weiner, 1985; Coffee & Rees, 2008b). In other words, just because an athlete has lost a game does not imply he/she considers the performance a failure. Attributions and self-efficacy Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their ability to succeed in a given situation (Bandura, 1997). Abramson et al. 1978) found that personal helplessness leads to lower levels of self-efficacy as the individual failed to belief he/she could change the situation outcome.

Other researchers have similarly stressed the importance of self-efficacy as it influence a person’s decision-making abilities in stressful situations (Bandura & Locke, 2003). While the aforementioned researchers have focused on self-efficacy in everyday life situations, others have recognized the value of self-efficacy in the sporting environment and encouraged researchers to look into the connection between attributions and self-efficacy (Biddle, 1999).

Since then, a lot of research has been conducted regarding attributions and their effects on self-efficacy. Bond, Biddle and Ntoumanis (2001) argued that self-efficacy is the most important factor when looking at performance. While McAuley (1985) claimed past performance is the strongest predictor of subsequent self-efficacy, as it stems from a person? s mastery experiences, other research has suggested that attributions can also have an effect on self-efficacy (Coffee & Rees, 2008a, 2009; Le Foll & Higgins, 2008).

Depending on the outcome of a situation, attributions have different impacts on self-efficacy. Research has shown that stability is the key predictor of higher subsequent self-efficacy following successful outcomes (Gernigon & Delloye, 2003). However, following perceived failure, it is controllability which has been found to lead to higher levels of self-efficacy (Bond et al. , 2001). Main and interactive effects of attributions

As previously mentioned, attributional researchers have long argued over the most important dimension – namely stability (Weiner, 1985) versus controllability (Grove & Pargman, 1986; Anderson & Deuser, 1993; Anderson & Riger, 1991). However, Rees et al. (2005) have stressed the importance of all attributions acting together. Specifically, they emphasize the importance of looking at the main effects of controllability and the interaction effects of the generalizability items (stability, globality and universality).

A study by Coffee and Rees (2008a) provided initial evidence of these attribution effects on self-efficacy, finding that controllability has a main effect on future self-efficacy following poor (“less successful’) performance, and that the interaction of the generalizability dimensions led to higher subsequent self-efficacy following successful performance (Coffee, & Rees, 2008a). The goal of this research is to attempt to replicate the findings of Coffee & Rees (2008a) in regards to the effects of attributions on self-efficacy among golfers, ranging from intermediate to expert skill level, in individual golfing events.

It will also examine the main effect of controllability and the interactive effects of the controllability, stability, globality and universality dimensions on performance. Following Coffee & Rees’ (2008a) findings, it is predicted that the controllability dimension will not affect subsequent self-efficacy following successful performances; however, it is predicted the generalizability attributions will lead to higher self-efficacy following successful performances.

It is also predicted that controllability will have a main effect on subsequent self-efficacy and that the interaction of controllability and globality will be associated with higher levels of subsequent self-efficacy following perceived failure. No interaction effects are predicted between controllability and the other generalizability dimensions (stability and universality) following failure, and the generalizability dimensions are not predicted to explain additional variance in subsequent self-efficacy on their own.

Because the CSGU model has not yet been used to examine the effects of attributions on performance, however, it is hypothesized that attributions to controllable causes will result in a better subsequent performance (i. e. lower subsequent score in golf) following both perceived successful and failure performances, and that this effect will be moderated by generalisability dimension.