Self-Appraisal in Sport

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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