Enacted social support in sport: The effects of support type and support visibility
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis examined the influence of support type and support visibility on the effects of enacted social support on performance and a number of key psychological and behavioural variables. It comprises five chapters. Chapter 1 is a general introduction. The next three chapters (outlined below) present the results of four studies. Chapter 5 is a general discussion. Chapter 2 examined how support type and support visibility influenced the effects of natural support exchanges between athletes and their key support providers occurring in the week prior to an athlete’s match. Athletes and key support providers reported respectively the receipt and provision of support during this week. Athletes also indicated their self-confidence and emotional states regarding the upcoming the match. Moderated hierarchical regression analyses revealed that all types of received support predicted athletes’ emotional states and self-confidence regarding the upcoming match. There was no evidence that invisibly providing these support types predicted athletes’ outcomes. For informational support, however, it was found that its provision predicted self-confidence, suggesting that athletes’ levels of confidence may have benefited from advice that they were not always aware of. Chapter 3 employed an experimental paradigm to better examine the influence of the type and visibility of enacted social support. Using a golf-putting task with novices (n = 105), it examined the influence of informational and esteem support provided in a visible or invisible manner by a fellow novice golfer. This fellow novice golfer was in reality a confederate scripted to give one of five support manipulations (visible informational support, invisible informational support, visible esteem support, invisible esteem support, no support) to participants prior to performing the golf-putting task. The results demonstrated that participants given invisible informational support or visible esteem support outperformed those given no support, while participants given visible informational support or invisible esteem support did not. There was no evidence that participants’ self-efficacy or emotional states could explain these effects. Chapter 4 also involved experimental procedures across two separate studies with samples of skilled football players completing a football aiming task. In these studies, esteem and informational support was provided in a visible or invisible manner by a coach with expertise in penalty-taking. In the first of these studies, the players (n = 68) performed better when the expert provided them with informational support than when the expert provided them with esteem support. This effect occurred regardless of whether the support was provided in a visible or invisible manner. Self-efficacy could not explain this effect. Given the lack of effects of support visibility, the second of these two studies was designed as a replication and an extension of the first. It sought to further examine why informational support might be more effective than esteem support for skilled football players (n = 84). Consistent with the first study, kicking performance was again significantly better for players provided with informational support than for players provided with esteem support regardless of whether the support was provided in a visible or invisible manner. There was evidence that players given informational support performed better than those given esteem support, because their attention was focused more externally on the target and less internally on the process of movement execution. This series of studies are important for sport and social psychology: They are the first to explore the effect of support type and support visibility in a sport context; and they are the first to examine the effect of support type and support visibility in relation to performance. The results demonstrate that support type is a crucial factor to consider when exchanging support. However, no support type may necessarily be considered the best under all conditions. In light of explaining the effects of different support types on performance, the final study suggests that attentional focus may be an important underlying mechanism. The results indicate that support visibility may play a role in the exchange of support but its influence depends on the type of support provided and the context in which this type of support is provided. An overriding finding of this thesis is that enacted support can have beneficial effects upon athletes’ psychological states and performance.
PhD in Sport and Health Sciences
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