Sports Psychology Behaviour & Attitudes

The aim of this lesson is to understand the difference between assertion and aggression, how attitudes are formed and changed (Equivalent to UK A-Level Physical Education).

Assertion or Aggression?

Assertion is behaviour which is not outside the rules of the game and does not have the intention of causing harm. For example, a fair but hard challenge in a game of football

Aggression incorporates the desire to harm another person and is not within the laws of the game. For example, pushing another player over in a game of football.

There are several theories concerning why we are aggressive. Some are more popular than others:

  • Natural instinct – Humans are predisposed to aggressive behaviour as a survival tool
  • Frustration – When a person is stopped from achieving they become frustrated and aggressive
  • Social learning – Aggression is learned from those around us and those in the public eye

Combating Aggression

The following are recommendations for ways in which aggression can be controlled in the sporting world:

  • Showing non-aggressive role-models
  • Rewarding ‘turning the other cheek’
  • Punishing aggression
  • Control of arousal levels
  • Avoidance of situations which cause aggression
  • Handing responsibility to an aggressive player
  • Stopping repeatedly aggressive players from participating further


An attitude is ‘a learned emotional and behavioural response to a stimulus or situation’.

Attitudes are formed through

  • Experiences – either pleasant or unpleasant
  • Attitudes of the people around us.

Triadic model of attitude formation

There are three components which make up our attitude formation:

  • Cognitive – What you believe to be true (may not actually be true!)
  • Affective – Your feelings or emotional response
  • Behavioural – Your intended behaviour dependant on your attitude

Changing Attitudes

To get an individual to change their attitude about something, they must be persuaded. The ability to persuade someone to change their attitude is dependant on three factors:

  • Status of the persuader – Someone of high status who is knowledgeable and genuine is likely to be successful
  • Clarity of the message – A clear, concise and accurate argument should be put forward
  • Ability to understand the message – The individual being persuaded must be capable of understanding the message

Cognitive Dissonance

A mismatch in the triadic model (above) will cause a dissonance (imbalance) in the mind of the person being persuaded due to the introduction of new information affecting the cognitive (belief) or affective (emotional) component. The only way to reduce this imbalance is to change their behaviour.

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