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Motivational influence on the attentional processes of competitive golfers

Motivational influence on the attentional processes of competitive golfers

Steptoe, Karl J. (2015) Motivational influence on the attentional processes of competitive golfers. PhD thesis, University of Greenwich.

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The main aim of this thesis was to gain a greater understanding of how a golfer’s attentional focus may be related to their achievement motivation and competence striving during competitive performance. It was anticipated that if such relationships were established in competitive contexts, findings would enhance understanding of the underlying mechanisms that contribute to attention explanations of diverse performance outcomes under perceived pressure.

There has been debate regarding the most accurate and useful definitions of performance outcomes such as ‘clutch’ performances and ‘choking’ under pressure, with a requirement acknowledged for research to get closer to these disparate performance experiences. Caution has, however, been encouraged with dichotomous attentional explanations of skill breakdown (i.e. self-focus and distraction theories) that are considered to oversimplify the issue.

An individuals’ goal and performance expectations have been posited as contributing to attentional focus choices. Achievement goal theories propose that an individual will define competence in response to motive disposition and environmental cues. Whilst the achievement goal construct is considered orthogonal at the dispositional level there is contention as to whether multiple goals can be adopted during performance. Performing under pressure in sport presents opportunities and threats to goal striving, therefore, the goal that a sportsperson engages in during skill execution may elicit attentional processes that explain adaptive and maladaptive performance outcomes.

Three studies were designed to determine if there was a relationship between achievement motivation and attentional processes during performance under pressure and if so, how definitions of competence influence attention and performance outcomes. A mixed-methods approach enabled data collection from purposive samples of golfers, who had experience of performance decrement under pressure. In Study 1, golfers provided verbal reports during a competitive performance and took part in a post round semi-structured interview. In Study 2 golfers reported their propensity to reinvest conscious, explicit, rule based knowledge and their achievement motives prior to competing and in Study 3, the motivational climate was manipulated to assess the influence of achievement goal adoption on cortical efficiency and golf putting performance.

All three studies report findings that provide support for the relationship between achievement motivation and self-focused attention. The findings suggest that golfers consider multiple goals prior to skill execution which create parameters within which attention has the potential to shift. Golfers’ evaluation of competence in line with these goal intentions reveals both underlying valued achievement motives and influences perceptions of performance. The measurement of achievement goal involvement was found to have a different relationship with performance depending on whether performance was defined in terms of a discrete golf skill (i.e. putting) or absolute performance measure (gross score) and also whether goals were self-reported or evoked through manipulation of the motivational climate. Results revealed that elite golfers performed better in a putting task under pressure and with greater psychomotor efficiency when adopting other-based achievement goals that reference interpersonal standards of competence striving. The theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: motivation in sport; competitive performance; performance under pressure; sport psychology;
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > School of Human Sciences (HUM)
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2019 13:38

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