It is widely accepted that the way people view and evaluate themselves has important implications for how they feel, think, and behave. For this reason, researchers have come to see self-evaluations as a central and important topic of study. However, despite there being a great deal of literature on self-appraisal, self-assessment, and self-perception, a noteworthy gap is the lack of consistent operational definitions used for each of these terms. Consequently, there has been a repeated failure to make a distinction between these terms, and many researchers have used these terms interchangeably given their conceptual similarities. Because conceptual distinctions cannot be made between these terms, self-appraisal will be used in this entry to infer the description and evaluations that an individual makes of his or her attributes and capabilities.
Types of Self-Appraisals
Similar to research with other constructs related to the self, such as self-esteem and self-concept, self-appraisals can be global (i.e., descriptions and evaluations of oneself in general) or can exist within particular domains (i.e., descriptions and evaluations of hockey abilities), which raises the question of whether global or domain-specific self-appraisals are more predictive of certain outcomes in sport and exercise psychology (SEP).
In circumstances where domain-specific self-appraisals have been the focus, the different types of self-appraisals can be classified as (a) performance-oriented self-appraisals or (b) self-oriented self-appraisals. A main distinction between performance-oriented and self-oriented self-appraisals is that the former is concerned with an individual’s evaluation of his or her own capabilities to perform a particular task, whereas the latter is concerned with an individual’s evaluation of himself or herself that may include personal qualities, personality traits, physical appearance, and self-worth. From this perspective, self-appraisals can have a broad or narrow perspective. Generally speaking, people who have high self-appraisals of himself or herself or some aspect of the self will think positively of themselves and be confident. In contrast, people with low self-appraisals will think negatively of themselves and lack confidence. In both cases, however, self-appraisals reflect evaluations as opposed to descriptions and can affect people’s thoughts and attitudes and also can play a role in determining people’s behavior by influencing their goal commitment, goal pursuit, and goal-related experiences.
Accuracy of Self-Appraisals
Self-appraisals may or may not include objective ratings. In some cases, people might self-appraise based on a number of different criteria such as social norms, social comparisons, past experiences, and expectations. In addition, just as others can affect how people define their self-concept, others can also affect people’s self-appraisals generally or within specific domains. Ultimately, the lack of objectivity and presence of others might lead to biased self-appraisals. Indeed, although people’s self-appraisals have been shown to become more accurate as they age, researchers have found evidence that self-appraisals do not always correspond with objective measures, such that people either overestimate or underestimate themselves or some aspect of the self. This can be particularly problematic when people perceive there is an advantage to positively appraising oneself. For example, when people are asked to rate their ability for a certain team sport, they might evaluate themselves positively if they believe this could help them achieve some desired goal, such as making a team’s final roster. This raises concerns about people’s objectivity and ability to view themselves accurately because there can be consequences if self-appraisals are unrealistic and exaggerated, regardless of the direction. People who overestimate their abilities might try tasks they cannot accomplish and experience unnecessary failure. These failures could then undermine their self-efficacy and result in behavioral withdrawal. Alternatively, people who underestimate their abilities might become self-limiting and restrict their activity choices. Therefore, the degree to which people are accurate in their self-appraisal is important information that could affect motivation, activity preferences, effort exerted, persistence, and subsequent self-efficacy beliefs.
Sport and Exercise Psychology Research on Self-Appraisals
There are a variety of constructs that have been shown to relate to self-appraisals, such as cognitive (e.g., satisfaction), emotional (e.g., affectivity, anxiety, depression), motivational (e.g., goal setting and commitment, persistence), and behavioral (e.g., performance disruptions, effort) variables. For example, researchers have documented that motivation is related to self-appraisals, such that people with negative self-appraisals see challenging tasks as difficult and feel that it is beyond their abilities and/or their control, which in turn lowers their motivation. In contrast, people with positive self-appraisals are highly motivated to complete challenging tasks because they feel they have the ability and control to successfully complete the task. Another key finding in the literature is that people who have high self-appraisals persist longer at tasks in the face of difficulties or setbacks. Finally, researchers have also shown that self-appraisals can affect attributions, whereby individuals who have positive self-appraisals make internal attributions (i.e., ability, effort) for their self-worth, attributes, and capabilities (e.g., I am fit because I exercise regularly), whereas those who have negative self-appraisals make external attributions (i.e., luck, task difficulty; e.g., I am fat because of my genes).
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