Individual Aspects Of Performance



"Personality is the sum total of an individual's characteristics which make a human unique" - Hollander

"Personality represents those characteristics of the person that account for consistent patterns of behaviour" - Pervin

Athletes display their own unique patterns of behaviour whilst engaged in sports performance. Some psychologists believe that quality of performance and participation in sport are determined by personality.

It is unlikely that a definition of personality will be examined directly. To clarify the term is, however, important.

The term personality us derived from the word 'persona', which was a mask in Greek drama. This implies that a person may give the appearance if being unlike their true self, which makes the assessment of personality difficult. A psychologist named Allport defined personality simple as, 'What a man really is!' ; to which Whiting later added, 'Not what he appears to be'.

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Trait Perspective

The trait theory of personality formation suggests that personality is made up of a range of different secondary traits inherited from parental genes. The trait view, therefore, maintains that all behaviour is innate and genetically programmed.For example, a person may have a natural inclination towards ambition, competition or aggression. Traits are thought to be stable, enduring and consistant in all situations

Trait theory is depicted as:

Behaviour = Function of Personality

(B = F(P))

The drawback with the trait approach is that behaviour is not always predictable. It does not account for the fact that people adapt their behaviour in different environments.

There are two specific theories that belong to the trait perspective of personality that you need to understand:

  • Personality Types (Eysenck and Cattell)
  • Narrow Band Theory Type A & B (Girdano)
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Personality Types

Eynsenck identified four primary personality traits or types:

  • Extrovert - These people affiliate well to others as they are outgoing, gregarious and sociable. They also become aroused more slowly than introverts and there is low sensitivity of the reticular activating system (RAS)
  • Introvert - These people tend to be more shy and reserved and therefore prefer isolation from others. They become aroused more quickly than extroverts and there is a high sensitivity of the RAS.
  • Neurotic - These people displey extreme and unpredicatable emotions in the forms of mood swings and therefore their moods can be unreliable. They experience high degrees of stress an their recovery from stress is slow.
  • Stable - These people display predictable emotions in appropriate situations and their mood are predicatable. They tend not to experience intense stress and their recovery from stress is rapid.
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Narrow Band Theory

Girdano was another trait theorist. He proposed that there are two distinct personality  types - Type A and Type B.

Type A:

  • Highly competitive
  • Works fast
  • Strong desire to succeed
  • Likes control
  • Prone to suffer stress

Type B:

  • Non-competitive
  • Works more slowly
  • Lacks desire to succeed
  • Does not enjoy control
  • Less prone to stress
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Social Learning Perspective 1

Social learning theory, in direct contrast to trait theory, proposes that all behaviour is learned. Learning occurs by way of environmental experiences and through the influence of other people. Personality is, therefore, not genetically programmed.

Social learning theory is dipicted as:

Behaviour = Function of Environment (B = F(E))

The social learning approach was presented by the psychologist Bandura. He believed learning was stimulated by environmental experiences. Two processes are involved in social learning:

  • The behaviour of others being imitated through observation
  • New behaviour being acquired after observation, but only when it is endorsed through social reinforcement 
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Social Learning Perspective 2

Social learning is often termed vicarious learning and is most likely to take place in the following four conditions:

1. When observed behaviour is demonstrated by a 'significant' other or role model of high status.

2. When the observer wants to adopt the norms and values of a new culture, i.e. after joining a new team or working with different people.

3. The role model is powerful and authoritative.

4. The observer and role model are the same gender.

A drawback with the social learning perspective is that it does not take into account genetically-inherited factors.

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Interactionist Approach 1

The interactionist approach is based on the work of Hollander (1967). Hollander proposed that personality has three levels that interct to form personality.

1. Psychological Core - This is the most internal of the personality levels and is thought to be the true self. Inaccessibility makes it the most difficult level to research but it is known to be stable and remains relatively constant over time.

2. Typical Core - Typical responses are changeable and are learned behaviours. They become modified as the person responds to environmental situations. They often reflect te makeup of the personality core.

3. Role-Related Behaviour - This is the most external of the personality levels. It is therefore the level that is dynamic and changeable. An individual may have to adjust in order to fulfil many different roles in one day, for example the role of student, coach or friend. Role-related behaviour is a direct consequence of the immediate environment.

While the core personality, according to Hollander, provides the structure of true self, the changing and dynamic levels of personality allow learning to take place.

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Interactionist Approach 2

Interactionist theory is depicted as:

Behaviour = Function of Personality x Environment

(B = F (P x E))

The interactionist view combines the trait and social learning perspectives. It proposes that personality is modified and behaviour is formed when genetically-inherited traits are triggered by an environmental circumstance.

The view supports the claim that typical responses emerge in accordance with changing environmental situations. Behaviour is therefore unpredictable. This approach offers an explanation why the personalities of sports performers can change in different situations.

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