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Title: Psychological consequences of superstitions in sport
Author: Ofori, Kwaku Patrick
ISNI:       0000 0004 2743 7341
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2013
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Superstitious thoughts or behaviours have been demonstrated to occur frequently and persistently among students and athletes. One major limitation in the superstition in sports literature is that researchers attempt to measure only negative superstitious beliefs; however, to date, little is known about types of superstitions, how superstitions are developed and maintained, their psychological functions and malfunctions, or their behavioural consequences. Study 1 demonstrates the widespread prevalence of superstitions within the present population of undergraduate student athletes in British and Ghanaian universities, and explores several specific superstitions that appear to be particularly common. There were significant main effects of gender and nationality on both positive and negative superstitious beliefs. British student athletes tended to endorse both types of superstition to a greater extent than Ghanaian student athletes, whereas Ghanaian student athletes engaged in superstitious behaviour more than British student athletes. In Study 2, the results suggested that people may enact their positive superstitious beliefs and religion as coping mechanisms and as secondary control strategies to offer them the comfort of feeling in control under conditions of impending failure. Results from the two qualitative studies (Studies 3 and 4) demonstrated some support for elite footballers’ engaging in rituals which serve a functional outcome. These findings suggest that superstitious and religious behaviour can protect against debilitating interpretations of anxiety by increasing self-confidence or allowing athletes to perceive symptoms as controllable and facilitative. Interestingly, athletes who have acquired their superstition by means of conformity note that they experienced cognitive dissonance. Dissonance emerges when two beliefs are inconsistent. Apparent contraction between an athlete’s personal superstitious behaviour and their teams’ superstitious behaviour may give rise to self-doubt, which can erode the athlete’s confidence and create other negative psychological consequences to team process. Study 5 provided empirical evidence for the notion that activation of personal superstition improved performance more than conforming to other superstitions, and that performance was better than that of athletes in the control group. In this regard, the reported findings uniquely contribute to our understanding of superstitions and their effects on psychological as well as behavioural consequences. The present findings are in line with previous research on the psychological functional benefits of superstition. At the same time, these findings suggest fresh interrogations for future research on the subject of superstitions. Possible applications to the student athletes and professional athletes are discussed.  
Supervisor: Lavallee, David; Tod, David; Coffee, Pete Sponsor: Commonwealth Scholarships
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Superstition ; Psychological consequences ; Ghana ; Elite footballers ; Conform superstition ; Threat and Challenge ; Sports Superstition ; Superstition Ghana ; Athletes Psychology