Motivation in Sport Settings: A Goal Perspective Approach

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Over the past two decades, social cognitive models of motivation that emphasize the significance of personal goals have become increasingly popular. One of the most important approaches to motivation proposed in this context has dealt with goal perspectives. Research on goal perspectives in sport and exercise has been grounded in achievement goal theories in educational psychology put forth in the mid-1980s by Nicholls, Dweck, Maehr, and Ames. Toward the end of the 1980s, sport and exercise psychologists, mainly under the leadership of Joan Duda, began to advocate the importance of testing these notions in the physical achievement domain.
Achievement goals focus on the ways in which people understand differences in achievement. Each of the aforementioned scholars would agree that, in achievement settings, a major motive for individuals to pursue would be to demonstrate competence; therefore, a central feature of achievement strivings would be the salience of ability perceptions. At least two major goal perspectives are said to operate in achievement situations: a self-referenced and mastery-focused and a normally references and comparatively orientated strategy. Variations in goal perspectives are fundamental to the understanding of the differences observed in people’s achievement-related affect, cognition, and behavior. It is argued that motivation in achievement settings is affected by the manner in which people construe their ability level and define success and failure, and two primary perspectives toward involvement in achievement situations play a major role in how individuals interpret and react in such settings (task and ego goal perspectives).
Task involvement operates when human action is motivated mainly by task mastery and by the experience of personal improvement, whereas ego involvement is characterized by actions that are motivated mainly by the wish to demonstrate normatively superior competence. In the former case, success and failure are defined in terms of self-referenced perceptions of the person’s performance; in the latter case, success is experienced when a person performs better than peers or similarly with less effort. It is predicted that a focus on task-involved will lead to maximal motivation regardless of the performer’s level of perceived ability, whereas an ego perspective, coupled with doubts about a person’s own level of competence, is said to result in negative achievement-related behaviors, such as rescinded effort, impaired performance, and even complete dropout. It should be emphasized that according to the goal perspective approach, whether an individual is in a state of task or ego involvement would be a function not only of dispositional differences but, in keeping with the social-cognitive tradition, also of situational factors. This approach is supported by an impressive body of research conducted in academic achievement settings, including classroom-based field studies and laboratory experiments with cognitive tasks.
In this seminal chapter, Duda provides an extensive review of the work that has adopted this approach of goal perspectives in an attempt to test major motivational issues in sport and exercise contexts. The author describes the research that has been directed toward the measurement of individual differences in goal perspectives (in particular on developing the famous TEOSQ – Task and Ego Orientation in Sport Questionnaire). Then, she presents sport investigations that tested different assumptions embedded in achievement motivation theories derived from the social cognitive approach, with a special reference to various facets of the concept of goal perspectives. Finally, similarities and differences between sport and exercise studies in goal perspectives are reviewed. Taken together with the concluding remarks and future directions outlined, this chapter constitutes essential reading for ever sport and exercise psychologist.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEssential Readings in Sport and Exercise Psychology
EditorsDaniel Smith, Michael Bar-Eli
Place of PublicationChampaign, USA
PublisherHuman Kinetics
ISBN (Print)0-7360-5767-6
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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