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Attribution Theory

All things Attribution Theory (AQA A2 PE)

Kerry Harrison

on 22 October 2017

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Transcript of Attribution Theory

Sport Psychology
WJEC Physical Education
We achieved 65 medals in the London Olympic Games (29 G, 17 S, 19 B)
& 67 in Rio 2016 (27 G, 23 S, 17 B)
Physical Challenge time
Today we are looking at reasons!
And the theory behind why we give those reasons
One of the most amazing things about human beings is that can explain anything!
Why? - Write down
at least 5 reasons
why you think this
This is known as Attribution Theory.
No matter what the cause, we have a strong need to understand and explain what is going on in our world.
We achieved 1 gold in the 2010 Vancover Winter Olympics.
Why did you win, lose or do as well/badly as you did?
By the end of this topic you will be able to:
Describe Weiner's model of Attribution and apply the model to sporting situations
Explain the link between attribution and task persistence
Explain at least 4 strategies of attribution re-training
Explain self-serving bias in a sporting context and what learned helplessness is (specific and general)
Why? Why? Why? WHY!
And this opens up some interesting influence possibilities!
Attribution = explanation
Weiner's Model
Dimension -
The locus of
The extent to which we explain success or failure to things within the control of the performer and you have influence over
The Stability Dimension
What reasons do you give for being successful or not at sport?
Task Difficulty?
The extent to which reasons are out of the performers control and have little influence over
Other things to help you with revision of this topic
Based on past experience and
are unlikely to change in the short term (relatively permanent)
Changeable in short term and even within a game.
e.g. team coach
unlikely to
Let's see what decided for the Olympics and our own success
We were more skilful.
'We were too good for
the opposition on the
The opposition are world
champions. Or they were not a
very good team from a lower
We tried hard. Or We had prepared well for the game and all the team worked extremely hard
The court was slippy. Or - We were lucky on the day. The umpire gave us a questionable penalty flick.
Weiner added a possible third dimension later on (1979)
Locus of control
Controllability - the extent that behaviour or consequences were within the control of the performer
Attribution important - affects future effort.
If believe reasons for failure can change - "If I try harder I can win next time!"
Success = stable and down to us = confidence and will continue to try and improve
Relationship to sports achievement
Link to achievement motivation
Goals adopted
Task choice
high motivation to achieve success
low motivation to achieve failure
focuses on the pride of success
ascribes success to stable factors and internal factors in one's control
ascribes failure to unstable factors and external factors out of one's control
usually adopts task goals
seeks out challenges and able competitors/tasks
performs well in evaluative conditions
High Achiever
Low Achiever
low motivation to achieve success
high motivation to achieve failure
focuses on shame and worry that may result from failure
ascribes success to unstable factors and external factors out of one's control
ascribes failure to stable factors and internal factors in one's control
usually adopts outcome goals
avoids challenges; seeks out very difficult or very easy tasks/competitors
performs poorly in evaluative conditions
Success - favourable wind (external)

Failure - lack of fitness or ability (internal)
success- high level of fitness - internal
Failure - high temp during match
Errors in Attribution
1. Self-serving bias
Tendency of athletes to attribute success to themselves (internal) and failure to external and changeable factors - e.g. refs fault! - to protect self-esteem.

Can lead to complacency and athletes need to be wary of this..........
Relates to the intensity of a performer's feelings of pride and satisfaction, shame and guilt
Pride and satisfaction are maximized if success attributed to internal controllable factors - ability and effort - motivation enhanced.
If success attributed to external and uncontrollable factors such as luck or the fact that the task was very easy, then satisfaction would be less intense and motivation less.
If failure is attributed to internal controllable factors - lack of ability & lack of effort - overpowering emotion would be dissatisfaction and motivation would be reduced.
The reasons we give for winning and losing may not be correct!
The observer-actor effect suggests that if we are assessing our own performance - tend to go for external reasons
But if watching someone else tend to blame internal reasons for their failure - He did not concentrate!
Learned Helplessness
Problem caused by continually putting failure down to internal reasons which can't be changed.
Failure is inevitable
Whatever I do will make little difference?
Any success will be lucky and not repeatable
- I'm no
good at
Specific - I'm no good at badminton
Opposite of learned helplessness is:
Mastery Orientation
An athlete with confidence and a history of success may feel that they are in control, success will be repeated and failure can be improved upon.
A performer with MO will continue to try
Attribution Retraining
Following failure - low achievers need to learn to attribute success and failure to the same reasons of high achievers - namely:
Success - stable internal
Failure - unstable external
This will raise self-efficacy of the performer for his or her sport
The coach may look at a change in tactics or blame use of poor equipment for failure - "change your racket"
Use a positive approach - "You just missed the ball because your head was not over it but you will get it next time.
Make reasons for losing less personal - It's not that you are no good, it is just a change in technique
Encourage performer to take responsibility for performance
Avoid lack of ability as a reason for failure
To make sure your players have the motives to success you should:
attribute success internally and failure externally
allow initial success
use positive feedback and positive reinforcement or rewards
explain early fatigue
make the activity fun and enjoyable
Future effort is limited & avoids challenges
‘Our year 8 Hockey team is not really good enough to win the county cup’

‘The rain caused the match to be abandoned and saved us’

‘We did the best we could’

‘I wasn't that bothered about winning today’

‘I'm not a good gymnast’

‘Our opposition were more skilful than us’

‘The sweeper misjudged the tackle and allowed the forward to go on and score’
Task 4: Categorise the statements below using Weiner’s two dimensional model. Use the grid!
Sport psychologists argue the reasons we give for success and failure can explain a performer's behaviour e.g.

Task persistence
Level of performance
Satisfaction with performance
i.e. if we are in control of the reason for success - intense pride, or failure - shame
Not as widely used
Variations to this tendency of Self-serving bias.........
Gill's Research (1980) - Female basketball players
Individual reasons for success and failure as norm
However - team reasons different:
Successes due to team mates
Failure down to them
Did our team game attributions show this?
Gender differences:
Females have lower expectations of success then males
Females more likely to attribute success to luck (E & U)
Males to ability (internal & stable)
Research suggests even apparent at age of 13 (Bird & Williams 1980)
LH - linked to Locus of Control/Causality
Seligman (1975) - invented the term
Most of us prefer to be in control of our own destiny
When our freedom to do this is threatened and our efforts to regain control continually fail - this leads to Learned Helplessness
People vary in the degree they succumb to LH............depending on their attributions
Repeated failure in sport will lead to an athlete giving up
Dweck (1975) - research
Dweck (1975)
Worked with children classed as helpless
Half children given easy tasks and therefore only experienced success
Half - tasks - where most succeeded - only a few didn't
At point of failure - researchers encouraged attribution of failure to lack of effort (Unstable)
So...would change children' attribution from stable to unstable
Second set of task - those who had been encouraged to change attributions to unstable responded better to failure and performed better overall
Those who only had easy tasks showed not improvement
Role of coach to help success is to ensure attributions are stable, controllable and internal (for success and opposite for failure).
Coach observes attributions of performer - so know what issues are
Be mindful of gender issues
Be mindful that observer can show bias
In Sochi 2014, we won 4 medals. We have not won 4 medals since 1924
Influences future behaviour.
Monitor your feedback to ensure you alter any issue attributions e.g. attribute error to poor technique - so how to correct and then reassure that they can do this change.
Make attribution training ongoing - one off efforts of change not enough
Encourage athlete to see success as stable internal (to encourage pride and confidence
Help athlete to view failure as unstable (both internal (e.g. lack of concentration) and external control (strong competition)
Learned Helplessness
Defined: 'a state produced by repeated exposure to unpleasant, negative situations from which there seems to be no escape'
Self-esteem & Attribution
Self-esteem = how valuable a person sees themselves.
Individuals with low SE more likely to blame themselves for failure - subsequent failure = more damage to SE
Dweck (1975) argued that LH children attribute failure in competitive situations to things that they have no control over such as luck or lack of ability.

Demo tendency to concede defeat and opt out of sports after initial failures because no visible prospect of improvement
Performer outcome orientated
Usually results from bad past experiences
Attributes - uncontrollable stable factors
Perceptions of low or limited ability
Rarely tries new skills
Experienced initial failure in new skills
Feelings of embarrassment
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