The following is a typical statement made by a young person who has given up sport and leads an unhealthy lifestyle: ‘I think sport is boring. I am no good at it, I don’t enjoy it and I can think of better things to do on a Saturday afternoon’ Using attributional theories, evaluate critically the reasons why this young person does not participate in sport. How might you persuade this young person to once again take up sport? It is evident from this statement that the young person concerned has developed a poor attitude towards a balanced, active, and healthy lifestyle.
They may have developed this through poor previous experiences, such as failure, which have been reinforced by others. For example missing a penalty and being reprimanded. They may have also developed this through role models and significant others which if reinforced is similar to the social learning theory. For example, copying an older sibling who plays computer games and getting closer to that sibling. Using Weiner’s model of attribution and the triadic model of attitude, this statement can be addressed.. Firstly, it is evident that the young person thinks ‘sport is boring’.
This is the cognitive element of the model which relates to an individual’s beliefs and knowledge. One way to change this component would be to use the persuasive communication technique. This requires a relevant message to be given to the person by a high status role model or significant other. For example, educating the individual about the long term health benefits of participation in sport, such as weight loss. It is important that this message is relevant to young people though as they may not be able to relate their position to such information.
Giving the individual a vicarious experience by watching others who have the ideal body shape and of are similar age/gender may help to motivate them. The statement ‘I am no good at it’ shows that the person is attributing their failure to internal stable factors on Weiner’s model e. g. ability. This illustrates that the performer is experiencing learned helplessness where they believe failure to be inevitable so withdraw effort and motivation. This can have a negative effect on self-confidence. To change this, attribution retraining can be used.
This is where the performer is encouraged to blame failure on internal/unstable factors as they can be controlled. For example, if they blame losing a tennis game on effort (unstable) then they can be encouraged to increase effort and achieve success. Currently, this person shows Need to Avoid Failure characteristics such as low self confidence and avoidance behaviour. This can be changed to a Need to Achieve personality using attribution retraining. This can help the performer develop mastery orientation which is self-belief and the desire to achieve.
Therefore it is important to use positive reinforcement throughout so as not to lower the young person’s confidence and reduce their motivation. The young person states that they ‘don’t enjoy’ sport in the statement. This can be linked to the affective component of the triadic model which is what the individual feels (emotion) about the activity. There are a number of reasons why someone may not enjoy sport and they are usually due to negative past experiences, for example, being on the receiving end of hostile aggression in football. A good way to combat this negativity would be to give the individual success and raise self-confidence.
For example, if they have lost many games of tennis, give them a superior doubles partner or allow them to train using a ball machine. There could also be a focus on lowering the performer’s anxiety and arousal. For example, an individual with neurotic or unstable personality characteristics would not be suited to a highly pressured badminton tournament if the focus is on participation. The final aspect of the young person’s statement suggest that they ‘can think of better things to do’ which is the behavioural component of the triadic model. This illustrates that the individual does not participate because they see little meaning in it.
This behavioural component falls in line with the affective and cognitive aspect of the model which means that the individual is content. To change this, the cognitive dissonance strategy could be used. This would mean changing one aspect of the model which would give the individual emotional discomfort. This discomfort would cause the other two aspects to come in line. For example, giving the performer an activity they enjoy (affective), such as 5 aside football instead of 11 aside as they get more time on the ball, would make them want to participate regularly (behavioural) and see the benefits (cognitive).
Although this theory may seem simple, having knowledge and enjoyment of sport may not bring regular participation. This could be down to time constraints, or lack of willingness to commit. Therefore it is very important that when all of the components develop into a good attitude that they are positively reinforced. There are number of theories and strategies that may help change a person’s attitude to positively reflect a balanced, active, and healthy lifestyle but they are not guaranteed to succeed. The importance of reinforcing positive behaviour cannot be overlooked.