Sledging, which is verbal antisocial behaviour in sport, aims to impair an opponent’s performance. Previously, variations in performance have been attributed to changes in emotion and cognition. To improve our understanding of sledging, the current experiment examined the effects of verbal antisocial behaviour on anger, attention and performance. Participants performed a competitive basketball free-throw shooting task under insult (verbal behaviour designed to offend and upset the performer), distraction (verbal behaviour designed to draw attention away from the task), or control (neutral verbal behaviour) conditions. Performance was assessed by the number of successful baskets and a points-based scoring system, while anger and attention were measured post-task. The insult condition provoked more anger than the control and distraction conditions, whereas the insult and distraction conditions increased distraction and reduced self-focus compared to the control condition. Although verbal antisocial behaviour had no overall direct effect on performance, mediation analysis showed that anger indirectly impaired performance via distraction. Implications for the antisocial behaviour-performance relationship are discussed.
- antisocial behaviour