The Relationship Between Locus of Control, Sport Competition Anxiety, and Superstitious Behavior
The relationship between locus of control, sport competition anxiety, and superstition was examined among five collegiate athletic teams. Participants included both men and women undergraduate collegiate athletes at a midwestern National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II university. Participants completed a survey packet that was three fold. The purpose of the packet was to gather information on athletes’ superstitious beliefs and behavior; to assess individuals’ level of locus of control; and to evaluate the level of sport competition anxiety experienced by each participant. It was predicted that athletes engage in superstitious behavior as a result of their locus of control, gender, and level of experienced sport competition anxiety. It was concluded that there is a relationship between athletes with an external locus of control and superstition. Also, results indicated a gender effect on superstitious beliefs and behaviors. In addition, the notion that sport competition anxiety and superstition was correlated was not supported.
locus of control, illusory
Superstitions in Collegiate Athletes
It is a common occurrence in the sports world for an athlete to engage in superstitious behaviors that may seem odd to others. Society seems to mock athletes and believe that their behaviors are absurd, however, each superstition serves a purpose in which the sportsperson finds to be beneficial to their performance. These behaviors are present in athletes of all ages, especially professionals. For instance, St. Louis Cardinals’ second baseman, Skip Schumaker, continuously readjusts his batting gloves before and during his at bat (Cardinals Diamond Diaries, 2010). Another example would be St. Louis Cardinals’ 2011 World Series MVP David Freese, hanging a batman mask in his locker during each game to ensure success for both the team and him. In addition, Cardinals’ catcher, Yadier Molina, wears the same necklace every game and kisses the mitt pendent after every pitch during his at bat (Cardinals Diamond Diaries, 2010). These behaviors may not seem too far out of the norm when it comes to athletes; however, there are some who take their superstitious beliefs and behaviors to the extreme. NBA sensation, Michael Jordan, would wear his college uniform shorts underneath his Chicago bulls uniform (Cox, 2010). In fact, it is said that he is the reason for the trend of long shorts in the sport of basketball because he would wear extra-large uniform bottoms to hide his University of North Carolina shorts. Caron Butler, forward for the Los Angeles Clippers, feels that he has to chew a minimum of twelve straws throughout a competition (Cox, 2010). Legendary Chicago Cubs pitcher Turk Wendell would brush his teeth in the dugout between each inning. Lastly, all-star tennis player Serena Williams will bring her shower sandals to every match and place them next to her bag for good luck (Cox, 2010). So why do athletes engage in these behaviors? What purpose do they serve and do athletes really believe that these actions will affect their performance? According to Dr. Richard Lustberg, creator of the Web site Psychology of Sports, superstitious behavior and rituals play a significant role in the mental preparation for a competition (Chick, 2008). Superstitions in a sport can be defined as actions that are repetitive, formal, sequential, and distinct from technical performance that the athlete believes to be powerful in controlling luck or external factors (Schippers & Van Lange, 2004). Superstitions are grouped into three categories; they are rituals, taboos, and fetishes (Weir, 2003). For instance, rituals are routines that must be done before every competition in order to ensure success. Taboos are identified as actions that must be done in order to avoid bad luck. In addition, fetishes are considered as lucky charms, which give athletes a material object that help them perform well. Despite what people may believe, success is determined by the skill of the athlete and the opponent, not the superstition (Weir, 2003).
There is a fine line between a comforting routine and a superstition. The primary reason that athletes engage in rituals is to provide themselves with a level of comfort and attempt to have a sense of control within a situation (Cox, 2010). When it comes to the performance of the opposing team, the outcome is completely uncontrollable; however, having a set ritual helps athletes feel that they are in the right mental state to perform (Cox, 2010). Psychologists commonly define the superstitious response as an authority through which an answer is maintained from an accidental correlation with reinforcement (Brevers, Bernard, Xavier, & Frederic, 2011). “A causal superstition is suggested to be part of a conscious belief; while a coincidental superstition may be more ambiguous about what behaviors individuals believed caused a particular outcome” (Wright & Erdal, 2008, p.188). The occurrence of superstitions can be explained in terms of an illusion of control. This tendency is described as individuals believing they can control events or influence outcomes that they are physically incapable of having an impact on. Another explanation for athletes engaging in superstitious behavior is based on the Lemer’s Just World Hypothesis that suggests that people need to believe in the equity and stability of their environment (Brevers et al. 2011). “This need may be relevant in dealing with the psychological tension generated by the uncertainty and importance of competitive situations and mediated by levels of competition and personal involvement (athletic identity)” (Brevers et al. 2011, p.5).
Before one can understand the causation of superstitious beliefs, behaviors and rituals, there needs to be a clear distinction between concepts. Far more athletes will admit to having a set of rituals than superstitions (Durham, 2010). Rituals are frequently classified as a pre-game mental preparation; rituals consist of putting on apparel in a particular order, listening to certain songs, or doing the same warm-ups routine. Superstitions on the other hand, have been found to be more psychologically depth. Superstitions are typically related to a particular instance of where an athlete has equated something they have done previously that has brought them success (Durham, 2010). Athletes’ superstitions are not as simple as their rituals. Sport psychologists indicate that an athlete will claim having a superstition because it gives them a mental edge over their opponent. In comparison, other psychologists point to the increased anxiety or lack of confidence caused if an athlete were to abandon the superstition practices or routines (Durham, 2010). Many may feel that an athlete’s rituals and superstitions are nonsense; however, facts have shown that these routines may be beneficial to the player. Researchers have found that superstitions and rituals give athletes a sense of control, with that; they believe that these behaviors will grant them success (Chick, 2008). Superstitions and rituals have also been found to significantly regulate psychological tension that results from an athlete’s level of competition anxiety (Damisch, Stoberock, & Mussweiler, 2010). Athletes use these strategies unconsciously to mentally prepare for a competition when tension and anxiety are high. Even though many athletes may have different reasoning, the majority of superstitions are developed because the player has related two random events together, therefore generating an illusory correlation (Durham, 2010).
A study was conducted to examine how superstitious behavior varied among different athletic teams and what motivated participants to engage in these acts (Bleak & Frederick, 1998). The study provided information about the use of superstitions and perceived effectiveness among three National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I teams. Researchers predicted a positive relationship between use of superstition rituals, level of anxiety and perceived importance of success. Researchers believed that as more importance is placed on the outcome of the competition, sport anxiety levels will increase and the athlete will engage in superstitious behavior to relieve tension and attempt control the end result (Bleak & Frederick, 1998). Results did not support the prediction that religiosity, locus of control, importance of success, and anxiety contribute to superstitious behavior and rituals (Bleak & Frederick, 1998). Another study was conducted to examine the interactions between perceived controllability, optimism, pessimism, and superstition (Rudski, 2004). Researchers predicted that the illusion of control, superstition, and optimism would also be positively related. Researchers predicted that when tasks are viewed as uncontrollable, people engage in superstitious behavior and generate an illusion of control. Data supported the idea that random and uncontrollable circumstances are also the antecedent conditions for the display of illusion of control. In addition, illusion of control is presented as a demonstration of unwarranted optimism in controlling the uncontrollable (Rudski, 2004). These studies have supplied evidence that supports the notion that athletes engage in superstitious behavior in an attempt to have a heightened sense of comfort and influence the outcome. Athletes tend to associate particular behaviors with unrelated events, such as an elite performance, therefore causing a need to continuously repeat actions (Rudski, 2004).
In a series of experiments, Langer (1975) found that people irrationally overestimate their likelihood of success of a situation by having a sense of control (Rudski & Edwards, 2007). The illusory sense of control becomes more likely when competition anxiety and importance are high. The illusion of control or illusory correlation is present when an individual finds a cause and effect relationship between two or more unrelated events. Regardless of how the illusion of control is measured, all dependent measures reflect a belief that one’s actions or rituals can influence an outcome that is, in fact, outside their control (Rudski & Edwards, 2007). Within the literature, it appears as though Langer indicated that athletes put emphasis on their sense of illusion of control; an illusion of control exists when an individual develops an illusory correlation and then begins to believe that they can perform a particular act and control a random event. An athlete will develop the notion that they have the ability to control the outcome of the competition by repetitively doing a specific act or even by having object in their possession (Rudski & Edwards, 2007). Since many psychologists see this heuristic as false, the actions are often mocked as maladaptive. Nonetheless, data shows that an illusion of control can give even the most non-superstitious person a sense of control and comfort (Rudski & Edwards, 2007).
Another notion that contributes to superstitious beliefs and behaviors is the locus of control. Locus of control is defined as an expectancy of a personal success probability that exceeds the objective probability of the outcome (Hageman, 2006). In other words, it is the amount of perceived control that an individual feels they have of their life. This mind set is caused by an event that occurs by chance but is associated with factors that are a result of skill-based situations (Hageman, 2006). In one study, researchers predicted that people with a perceived external locus of control are more likely to feel comfortable in a situation that is viewed as uncontrollable (Tennen & Sharp, 1983). Those with an external locus of control are also doubly impaired in that they tend to view outcomes as response independent and still succumb to the illusion of control. Previous data supports the hypothesis that those with internal locus of control will expand effort and those with an external locus of control are more likely to give up due to the veridical perception of response (Tennen & Sharp, 1983). The question still remains as to who is more likely to develop the sense of illusion of control and engage in superstitious behavior? A study was conducted to examine the practice of superstitious behavior and how it is related to type A behavior pattern, athletic identity, and locus of control among NCAA teams (Todd & Brown, 2003). “B. F. Skinner (1948) discussed the acquisition of superstition as a conditioning process that occurs as a function of temporal relation only; the mere fact that reinforcement coincides temporally with a response does not mean that it is contingent upon the response” (Todd & Brown, 2003, p.169). As a result of the fact that skill, talent, and physical fitness are characteristics that the majority of collegiate athletes share, they may feel pressure and uncertainty about the competition. Research found that athletes with more experience tend to feel higher levels of anxiety about competition importance therefore causing them to engage in superstitious behavior to gain an upper hand on their opponent (Todd & Brown, 2003).
These behaviors are often times viewed as unnecessary, but do they work? Does the commitment that is made to superstitious behaviors and rituals beneficial or is it harmful to the individual psychologically? The question of whether superstitions are a sign of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) has been brought up due to the fact that people who suffer from this condition often have to repetitively perform particular rituals every day (Albert, 2012). Despite many opinions, evidence shows that even though OCD may mimic superstitious behavior, there is not a connection between the two. Superstitions exist because of our need for more control in a world that is in fact uncontrollable. Studies have shown that superstitions can have both a positive and negative psychological effect on an individual (Albert, 2012). People often misperceive random events as being related when in reality they are not. Individuals also believe that they can control random uncontrollable events. These cognitive heuristics are so powerful that people allow them to have dominance over certain aspects of their life, which can be psychologically damaging and detrimental to one’s confidence (Albert, 2012). A study was conducted on frequent hockey gamblers to examine the affect that perceived control could have on an individual’s performance, even at guessing outcomes. It was hypothesized that the accuracy of predictions made by participants would be superior to the accuracy of randomly selected wagers (Cantinotti, Ladouceur, & Jacques, 2004). Researchers found that the gamblers’ predictions were more accurate when they were more confident in their control of the outcome (Cantinotti et al. 2004).
Even though the notion of athletes engaging in this behavior may sound unconventional, evidence suggests that it is effective. It is evident that routines and rituals offer athletes a sense of familiarity and comfort, which in turn provides the individual with a feeling of control and confidence. Nonetheless, rituals serve one very significant purpose; they mentally prepare an athlete for the game and promote focus during competition (Fogelman, 2012). Sports psychologists suggest that if the athlete believes that their routines and rituals work, then they will (Fogelman, 2012). Superstitions have been shown to lower anxiety, build confidence, and reduce the feeling of uncertainty (Fogelman, 2012). The belief that the actual behavior or ritual itself affects the outcome is false; however it has significant meaning to the athlete and their mental preparation for a competition or performance. Even though superstitions are inconsequential creations of the mind, putting in the extra effort by execution can be beneficial to one’s performance (Damisch et al. 2010).
A study conducted showed that participants that engaged in their personal superstitious behaviors and rituals performed better in various motor and cognitive tasks compared to those who abandoned their beliefs (Damisch et al.2010). In addition, a perceived level of self-efficiency settled the performance enhancing effects. When an individual activated their superstition, their belief that they can master a task improved their performance (Damisch et al. 2010). In conclusion, this study tested and supported the prediction that superstitions have a positive effect on performance when activated as a result of an increase in confidence (Damisch et al. 2010).
Many sport psychologists view superstitions as nothing more than reactions that begin with conditioning and boosting a placebo effect (Roenigk, 2010). Some believe that superstitions and rituals are an attempt to manipulate fate and act as a psychological placebo to athletes (Robson, 2005). Many athletes cling to superstitions to help navigate the numerous events that require high levels of performance because a little psychological edge can be beneficial in concentration and focus. The most negative consequence that can occur from superstitions and rituals would be if the athlete were to abandon them; doubt, anxiety, and worry might escalate and performance may significantly suffer. In reality, if an athlete is unable to follow their rituals or superstitions, their focus may be hindered (Fogelman, 2012). It has been a concern for some that athletes putting emphasis on a ritual or superstition can be detrimental to an athlete’s confidence. It was reported in an article that in a situation where an athlete does not perform well, they may lose faith in the superstition and not have anything to rely on to maintain a sense of control (Roenigk, 2010). Some professionals believe that athletes should put more emphasis on their skills rather than assigning success to an outside source even though the placebo effect does have a positive effect on performance (Roenigk, 2010). When an athlete feels that there is a behavior or object that is causing them to play well, they will actually perform better because of the visualization and state of mind they have created (Roenigk, 2010).
When analyzing the effects superstitions and rituals have on an athlete’s performance, it seems as though evidence suggests that they are beneficial. Superstitions are generally something developed in hindsight, unintentionally because an athlete has linked two unrelated events together and as a result feel required to repeat them for the same outcome (Quinn, 2010). Aside from the fact that athletes believe that the behavior itself determines the outcome of the performance or competition, the real value in superstitions and rituals is to boost confidence and give an athlete a sense of control that the athlete is receiving from them (Quinn, 2010). Superstitions give athletes confidence that their rituals and routines are gaining them success. Confidence is an important aspect to athletes because if they feel confident, it is suggested that they will perform well (Chick, 2008). Confidence is the key in athletic performance; whether you are a player, coach or fan, you have to believe that you will do well, in order to actually execute successfully. If an individual thinks that they are able to control the situation, they will become overwhelmed with the idea that they will do well no matter what (Chick, 2008). The superstitions and rituals that athletes follow and believe in are very similar to the strategies that sport psychologists use, even though the athletes may not realize it.
Athletes believe that their superstitions enhance their performance and alter the outcome of the competition, but in fact, practice and confidence is the key to success in athletics (Mayberry, 2010). Sports psychologists identify superstitions as a coping mechanism because they give athletes a sense of control, which in turn lowers anxiety and increases confidence. The positive side of superstitions is that an athlete’s confidence will rise as long as they feel they are in control of the situation during competition. Nevertheless, if the competition does not end as an athlete prefers, then they may lose confidence in their superstition and not have the confidence in themselves to continue to perform well (Mayberry, 2010). With all the studies that have been conducted and data that has been collected, it is still difficult to distinguish between superstitious behavior and mental preparation, but in the end, they are both beneficial to an athlete (Schippers & Van Lange, 2006).
Previous literature has discussed that superstitions are a result of one’s locus of control, development of an illusory correlation, and the illusion of control bias. Studies have also suggested that athletes use superstitions and rituals as a method of lowering anxiety and containing a sense of control over a situation. The current study will exam the relationship between locus of control, sport competition anxiety, and superstitious beliefs and behaviors in collegiate athletes. It is hypothesized that collegiate athletes with an internal locus of control engage in superstitious behavior in attempt to control the outcome of their performance and the competition. It is also predicted that athletes who experience higher levels of sport competition anxiety are more likely to engage in superstitious behavior. In addition, a third hypothesis was added to the study that predicted that superstitious beliefs and behaviors are more prevalent in collegiate women athletes than collegiate men athletes.
The participants were undergraduate student athletes at a private midwestern university that was under NCAA Division II standings. There were five athletic teams chosen to be examined, they included basketball, baseball, bowling, softball, and track and field. The teams were chosen on the basis that they have both a men and women’s team. Participants gave voluntary consent to engage in the study. Data were collected in accordance with the ethical standards of the American Psychological Association (American Psychological Association, 2010).
A three-fold survey packet was used to collect data from the members of each athletic team. The survey packet included scales to measure sport competition anxiety; levels of locus of control; and superstitious beliefs and behaviors. Every athlete answered a set of standard demographic questions designed for use in the study. Demographic information was collected about participants’ sex and the sport in which the athlete was a member.
Sport Competition Anxiety Test. This test measures the tendency of an athlete to experience anxiety prior, during, and after a competition in a sport. The primary use of this scale is to measure competitive trait anxiety. Test scoring is based on 15 questions that ask the athlete how they feel prior, during, after, and about a competition. Each item is answered on a three-point Likert scale (rarely, sometimes, often) and a summary score ranging from less than 17 (low competitive trait anxiety) to more than 24 (high levels of anxiety) is computed for each respondent (Hypnosisworks, 2006).
Multidimensional Locus of Control. To measure locus of control, a scale was adapted from the Levenson Multidimensional Locus of Control Inventory (Levenson, 1981). The original inventory measured three separate scales of locus of control: Internal Scale, Powerful Others Scale, and Chance Scale (Levenson, 1981). There were originally eight items on each scale which was presented as one twenty-four item questionnaire (Levenson, 1981). The present study modified the inventory and only measured two scales of locus of control: Internal and Chance. The scale was presented to the participants as a sixteen item inventory. The participants were asked to respond to each item using the Likert scale, ranging one to five to indicate the extent in which they agreed or disagreed with the statement.
Superstition Belief Measure. A questionnaire was conducted for the present study to measure superstitious beliefs and behaviors in athletes. The questionnaire consists of twelve items that refer to superstitious beliefs, behaviors, and rituals. Participants were asked to respond using a Likert Scale ranging one to five to indicate the extent of which one agreed or disagreed with the statement.
Athletes completed the survey packet as a team either before or after the team’s practice. Each team was surveyed at separate times. Every member of the teams was given an informed consent document before the survey packet was distributed. Each athlete was required to read the statement and give written consent that they understood the terms and were voluntarily participating. The athlete then turned in the section with their signature and retained possession of the statement. The athletes were then given and completed the three-fold survey packet. Participants completed the Superstition Belief Measure, Multidimensional Locus of Control Inventory (Levenson, 1981), and the Sport Competition Anxiety Test (Hypnosisworks, 2006). Participants read each statement carefully and used a Likert scale to answer items accordingly.
Data were entered for demographics, superstitious beliefs and behaviors; levels of locus of control; and sport competition anxiety. There was a sample total of 111 undergraduate student-athletes at a small midwestern NCAA Division II university; 60.4 percent were men (67) and 39.6 percent were women (44). There were five athletic teams that were studied; they were basketball, baseball, bowling, softball, and track and field. Table 1 displays the cross tabulation count and frequencies for each sport and gender.
When measuring superstitious behavior, higher scores represented higher levels of superstition, while lower scores represented lower levels of superstition. Questions one, six, nine, and ten were recoded so higher scores would then represent higher levels of superstition. Items asked questions regarding superstitious beliefs and behaviors in both athletics and in life situations. Examples of questions asked included belief in zodiac signs; a broken mirror means seven years of bad luck; effect of a jersey number; and belief in luck. A total count of each item of superstition was computed for each participant and then a total for superstition was computed.
To measure locus of control, an internal locus of control variable and external chance locus of control variable was created. A total count for both internal locus of control and external chance locus of control were computed based on the questions that were answered for both. An additional variable, named locus of control, was created to indicate the level of locus of control for each participant. Depending on which level of locus of control had a higher score, the participant was either labeled one for internal or two for external chance.
Sports competition anxiety was measured with responses often, sometimes, or never to a series of statements asking about tension and arousal before, during, and after a competition. Higher scores represented higher levels of sport competition anxiety, while lower scores represented lower levels of sport competition anxiety. A total count of each item of sport competition anxiety was computed for each participant.
Superstition and Locus of Control
In order to test the hypothesis that athletes with an internal locus of control are more likely to engage in superstitious behavior than athletes with an external chance locus of control, a Pearson biviariate correlation was performed between superstition and internal locus of control. This analysis indicated that there was not a significant relationship between internal locus of control (M 27.82, SD 4.85) and superstitious beliefs and behaviors (M 31.67, SD 5.89); R (df = 109) = .108, p=.257. However, this analysis indicated a positive correlation between external chance locus of control (M 19.06, SD 4.85) and superstitious behavior (M 31.67, SD 5.89); R (df=109)= .376, p < .000. This analysis suggests that athletes with an external chance locus of control are more superstitious than athletes who have an internal locus of control.
Sports Anxiety and Superstition
In order to test the hypothesis that athletes with higher levels of sport anxiety are more likely to engage in superstitious behavior, a Pearson Biviariate Correlation was performed. This analysis indicated that there was not a significant relationship between sport anxiety (M 33.51, SD 5.23) and superstitious behavior (M 31.67, SD 5.89); R(df= 109) = .095, p = .319. Data suggests that there is not a relationship between the level of sport competition anxiety that an athlete experiences and their superstitious beliefs and behaviors.
Gender and Superstition
To test the hypothesis that women athletes are more superstitious then men athletes, a one-way ANOVA was performed. Results indicated a significant difference in superstitious behavior based on gender, F (1, 109) = 4.256, p <.041. Data suggests that men athletes (M 32.59, SD 5.50) are more superstitious than women athletes (M 30.27, SD 6.24).
A one-way ANOVA was performed to test which gender experienced higher levels of sport competition anxiety. This analysis indicated that there was a significant difference in sport competition anxiety based on gender, F(1, 109) = 4.856, p < .030. These results indicate that women athletes (M 34.84, SD 6.76) experience higher levels of sport competition anxiety than men athletes (M 32.64, SD 3.72).
A Pearson Biviariate Correlation was performed to analyze the relationship between sport competition anxiety and locus of control. This analysis indicated a significant relationship between sport competition anxiety (M 33.51, SD 5.23) and external chance locus of control (M 19.06, SD 4.85); R= (df = 109) = .199, p < .036. Data suggests that athletes with an external/chance locus of control experience higher levels of sport competition anxiety than those who have an internal locus of control.
There were three hypotheses to this study while examining superstitious behavior in collegiate athletes. For instance, it was hypothesized that collegiate athletes with an internal locus of control would be more likely to engage in superstitious behavior than athletes with an external chance locus of control in attempt to control the outcome of their performance and the competition. A statistical analysis of the data showed no significant relationship between internal locus of control and superstition; however, data suggests that there was a significant relationship between external chance locus of control and superstition. An individual’s locus of control can be a contributing factor as to why superstitions develop, however, it is not a determinant. A person with an internal locus of control has been found to believe that they are in control of every aspect of their life and can master their fate (Albert, 2012). In addition, those who have an external locus of control believe that their lives are controlled by outside factors, such as the power of others or luck (Albert, 2012). Studies have shown that people with an internal locus of control will expend effort in order to ensure a preferred outcome, while those with an external locus of control are more likely to give up due to veridical perception of response (Tennen & Sharp, 1983). With this evidence, researchers also found that individuals with both levels of locus of control engage in superstition as a result of an illusion of control (Tennen & Sharp, 1983).
In addition, it was hypothesized that collegiate athletes that experience higher levels of sport competition anxiety are more likely to engage in superstitious behavior in order to cope with tension. A statistical analysis of the data showed no significant relationship between sport competition anxiety and superstition. Certified psychologist Dr. Lustberg remarked that athletes use superstitions as a coping mechanism in order to deal with the pressure to succeed (Mayberry, 2010). He found that when an athlete engages in their superstition, confidence increases therefore causing an improvement in performance (Mayberry, 2010). Researchers have examined the theory that superstitious behavior is used as a coping mechanism for anxiety and stress caused by competition importance. Researchers believed that as more importance is placed on the outcome of the competition, sport anxiety levels will increase and the athlete may engage in superstitious behavior to lower anxiety and possibly control the end result (Bleak & Frederick, 1998). After collecting data from completed survey packets, evidence of this study also did not support the prediction of a positive relationship between sport competition anxiety and superstition (Bleak & Frederick, 1998).
Also, it was hypothesized that superstitious beliefs and behaviors would be more prevalent in women collegiate athletes than collegiate men athletes. A statistical analysis of the data indicated a significant difference in superstition based on gender; however, data suggests that superstitious behavior is more prevalent in collegiate men athletes than in collegiate women athletes. Gender differences and its affect on superstition is not a commonly studied area, however, researchers have focused on the differences between sports in both men and women. In one particular study researchers found, while examining the affects of competition and opponent importance on superstition, that the level of superstition does not vary among athletic teams (Schippers & Van Lange, 2006). This study also found that superstitious behavior is more prevalent in high performing athletes than mediocre and lower level performing athletes (Schippers & Van Lange, 2006).
One potential problem with the study may have been the type of questions included in the superstition belief measure. The items asked questions referring to superstitious beliefs and behavior in both athletics and everyday life situations. Items that were not relevant to athletics may have caused a discrepancy in the data needed to validate the study of superstitions in collegiate athletes. Asking questions about superstitious beliefs and behavior outside of sports did not provide beneficial data and may have been irrelevant to the research.
Another potential problem may have been the setting in which data was collected. Previously stated, data was gathered at each individual team’s practice, either before or after, which could have an affect on participants’ focus and concentration to the survey packet. For instance, gathering data after a practice when the athletes were tired may have influenced their responses to the items on the surveys. If this factor did have an influence on the participants’ responses, then there may be a discrepancy with the results. Collecting data for every team at the same time may have prevented this issue; however, the possibility of distractions would still be present. Collecting data in an environment where athletes were around a larger population of their peers and the opposite sex, may lead to a lack of concentration and perceived importance in the survey.
A modified version of the present study may provide more of an insight on the factors that cause superstitious beliefs and behaviors in collegiate athletes. Revising items on the surveys may provide more support to the research. For instance, adding demographic questions such as age, level of education, and performance standing would provide information for more factors that could be correlated with superstitious beliefs and behavior. Also, revising the Superstitious Belief Measure by eliminating the items that do not refer to athletics may further validate evidence. In addition to revising the survey packet, collecting data in a setting that is more suitable for analytical thinking could avoid any disparity in the results. Making these changes may produce data that support past research on the causes of superstitious beliefs and behavior in collegiate athletes.
If evidence from past research is valid, then superstitious beliefs and behavior in collegiate athletes is a result of the individual’s locus of control and sport competition anxiety. Performing more studies and exploring a variety of variables would yield a greater insight to more possible causes and reasoning behind superstition. Learning more about superstitions could assist sport psychologists, coaches, and players in understanding how individual athletes view the sport and effectively find strategies that can further enhance performance.
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Cross tabulation and Frequencies of Athletic Teams and Gender
Track & Field
Note. Frequency represents the number of members on each athletic team.
Table 1 also provides the percentage that each athletic team makes up of the total sample. The number of male and female members of each team is provided along with the percentages in which both genders make up the total population of each team and sample.