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Title: The functional significance of action-state orientation in athletic performance
Authors: Douglas, Caroline C.
Keywords: Action-orientation
Action planning
Affect
Goal striving
State-orientation
Volition
Issue Date: 2005
Publisher: © C.C. Douglas
Abstract: This thesis investigated the functional significance ofthe personality construct of action-state orientation (Kuhl, 1981), which is suggested to mediate the efficiency of the volitional approach taken to overcome the difficulties associated with goal initiation, maintenance and completion under competitive pressure. The role of volition, defined as 'the act of deciding upon a course of action and initiating it' [Syn. Will] (German Dictionary of psychology, 1934, p.283) in sport has emerged from unequivocal findings taken from coaches and athletes regarding the effectiveness of goal setting as a performance enhancement strategy (Burton, Weinberg, Yukelson & Weigand, 1998; Weinberg, Burton, Yukelson & Weigand, 2000). Further research exploration of goal setting practices concluded that the most realistic explanation for the lack of goal attainment when utilising goal setting is the lack of an adequate 'action plan' (Burton, Naylor & Holliday, 2000). Whilst goal setting is a process of motivation that ends with a decision to act (Beckmann, 2002; Heckhausen, 1991; Kuhl, 1987), the processes of goal initiation and completion are related to action plans and goal striving, which are issues of volition (Kuhl, 1984; Latharn 2000). Volitional competence is determined by the opposing personality dispositions of action- versus state-orientation. Action-orientation is characterised by an efficient present focus on action and making plans under pressure, whereas state-orientation is associated with an increased propensity to ruminate over real or imagined failure and the state the individual is in, rather than focus on the task at hand (Kuhl, 1994a). Study 1 explores the performance strategies and coping skills utilised by action- and state-oriented athletes under competitive pressure. Scores on the Athlete Coping Skills Inventory (ACSI-28; Smith, Schultz, Smoll & Ptacek, 1995)demonstrated a significantly higher usage of goal setting, relaxation and imagery as well as better emotional control and lower levels of negative thinking in the actionoriented group. Results from the Test of Performance Strategies (TOPS; Thomas, Murphy & Hardy, 1999) showed comparable scores between action- and stateoriented athletes in the areas of self-talk and coachability. A similarity which highlights an increased propensity in state-oriented athletes to submit to external control and the beliefs of others in preference to their own personal judgement. Study 2 documents the impact of 5-month intervention with endurance athletes to enhance volitional functioning and self-access to their personal wants, needs and beliefs utilising Personality Systems Interaction theory (PSI; Kuhl, 2000a), which contends volition efficiency is facilitated by positive affect. Eight out of eleven baseline state-oriented athletes scores on the Volitional Components Inventory (VCI; version 6, US-I; Kuhl & Fuhrmann, 1998) showed significantly improved differences in 23 out of a total 35 areas of volitional functioning, including enhanced levels (p<O.05) of emotional control, initiating and self-determination. Significantly decreased scores (p<O.05) in areas including inhibition and fear of failure were also shown. Study 3 presents follow-up interviews with intervention programme athletes to specifically investigate personal experiences and perceptions of behaviour change. Qualitative exploration indicated more pronounced use of avoidance coping strategies related to self-awareness and the adoption of mental skills in three athletes who showed no improved volitional competency. These athletes demonstrated inappropriate and performance impairing methods of enacting their intentions. Overall, results suggest that volitional efficiency is related to the ease of access to personal beliefs, needs and wants as these self-related constructs provide goals with the dynamic properties of being self-determined and intrinsicallymotivated. Goal pursuit can be severely debilitated by intentions that lack energising and protective qualities because limited self-awareness and the use of denial create a situation where intentions are never actually associated with the constructs that govern motivational meaning and action initiation. It is necessary that athletes learn to trust their own judgements and function quickly and correctly when under competitive pressure. If athletes do not develop the ability to appropriately access the mechanisms that enable them to overcome the difficulty of goal enactment, their performance can be compromised. A key implication for professional practice is the need to develop easily adhered-to self-monitoring tools and functionally relevant affect regulation training programmes. Future research directions including the furthering of both the issues of theoretical understanding and the role played by volition in sport are presented.
Description: A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
URI: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/14409
Appears in Collections:PhD Theses (Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences)

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