Personality differences among individuals can be explained in relation to their individual differences in need patterns. Individuals possess various needs—very basic ones, such as the consumption of food and avoidance of pain; and secondary ones, such as achievement, affiliation, and dominance. These primary and secondary needs have the potential to influence an individual’s pattern of behavior. One of the needs attracting the attention of researchers in psychology is the need for control, which has been associated with Type A behavior. Individuals with Type A behavior patterns are characterized as being competitive, aggressive, and hostile. They also display extraverted tendencies and a tendency to work beyond their physical capacity, as well as possessing the need for control over the environment. Personal traits that are linked to Type A behavior include dominance, need achievement, and trait anxiety. It is assumed that being in a competitive-oriented environment (e.g., school, sport program) facilitates Type A behavior. The antithesis of Type A behavior is Type B behavior—characterized by easygoing, nonaggressive, and noncompetitive behavior.
For athletes with Type A behavior, a competitive event is characterized by the need to control a given situation; time urgency, which is associated with the fear of losing control over what one is doing; and hostility is exhibited when the athlete loses control of what is happening. It is assumed that dominant athletes (athletes with Type A behavior) tend to play more central and more intense roles in sport situations and assume more risks in order to achieve their individual goals, compared to athletes with lower dominance, those athletes with Type B behavior.
Measurement of Type A/B Behavior
The most frequently employed measure of Type A and B personality is the Jenkins Activity Survey (JAS). The JAS has become firmly entrenched in the field of management, as well as in medical and psychological research, as a standard tool for assessing Type A behavior. The JAS is a self-report questionnaire and is made up of 52 multiple-choice items that yield a composite Type A scale score and three subscales obtained by factor analysis: speed and impatience, job involvement, and competitive and hard driving. One of the concerns associated with the JAS is that this tool has proven to be no better than chance in discriminating between Type A and Type B personalities.
Exercise and Type A Behavior
Type A behavior has been linked to increased risk of coronary heart disease. In addition, it has been suggested that the anger–hostility component of the Type A construct is the most significant characteristic related to heart disease, and that individuals with Type B behavior are less at risk for developing this medical condition. Researchers in sport and exercise psychology have questioned the contribution of exercise training programs to the modification of Type A behavior. To date, little evidence has been obtained to provide support for the argument that participation in an exercise program can lead to reduction in Type A behavior and subsequently lower the risk of coronary heart disease.
One study showed that participation in a 12-week aerobic exercise program resulted in reduction in Type A behavior and also lowered cardiovascular reactivity to mental stress. However, in studies aimed at examining the relationship between Type A behavior and injury risk, it was found that athletes with Type A behavior might take greater risks and therefore experience more injuries. For example, runners scoring high (e.g., more aggressive, hard driving) on a Type A behavior questionnaire experienced more injuries than those who scored lower on this measure.
Participation in a multiweek, aerobic-type exercise program, such as biking, running, swimming, or walking, has the potential to help individuals modify patterns of Type A behavior. However, it is assumed that participation in an exercise program by itself is too short in securing the appropriate modification of the components that make up Type A behavior. It is proposed that in addition to an exercise program, individuals with Type A behavior should learn cognitive stress management techniques, such as mental imagery; systematic desensitization (association of steps or antecedent behaviors that deal with a stressful experience in a state of calmness and relaxation); and relaxation techniques like autogenic training, progressive muscle relaxation, or yoga. In addition, massage and biofeedback can also help to modify Type A behavior. It is assumed that the adoption of a multifaceted, holistic approach—participating in an exercise training program combined with learning cognitive stress management techniques—will help individuals reduce the anger–hostility components of their behavior.
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