Term of Award

Spring 2005

Degree Name

Master of Science in Kinesiology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)


Department of Health and Kinesiology

Committee Chair

A. Barry Joyner

Committee Member 1

Kevin L. Burke

Committee Member 2

Barry A. Munkasy


Expectations are instrumental in predicting performance quality (Solomon, 2002). According to the expectancy theory, what is expected to happen often does (Chase & Lirgg, 1997). Often, the underdog, or unexpected winner, will defeat the more likely winner creating questions as to the validity of the expectancy theory. Psychological variables related to expectations may contribute to the ability of the underdog to succeed in unexpected situations. Optimism refers to a positive expectation or perception of the future, and pessimism refers to a negative expectation or perception (Scheier & Carver, 1993). Anxiety, though often given a negative connotation, has shown facilitative effects on performance (Mellalieu, Hanton, & Jones, 2003). Whether anxiety is facilitative or debilitative to performance is based on the interpretation of anxiety, also termed direction. Individual levels of optimism and pessimism alter the interpretation of anxiety, with optimists experiencing less debilitative effects of anxiety (Wilson, Raglin, & Pritchard, 2002). Self-confidence is one of the strongest predictors of performance (Hardy, 1996; Jones, 1995). Self-confidence is related to optimism and pessimism by definition, as it refers to the belief or expectations about the ability to succeed in a future performance (Krane & Williams, 1992). Not only is self-confidence related to performance and the constructs of optimism and pessimism, but it also mediates anxiety interpretation (Jones & Hanton, 2001; Swain & Jones, 1996). The purpose of the present study was to determine whether differences in psychological variables such as optimism, pessimism, anxiety and self-confidence contribute to the success of the underdog in a competitive environment. In the current study, 15 male, Division I-AA collegiate football players from a southeastern university were tested over a three game trial period. Game conditions or outcome expectancies were determined by participant ratings on a 5-point Likert scale question. Response options ranged from strong underdog to strong favorite. Participant predictions defined one underdog (U), one favorite (F), and one evenly matched (E) condition. Participants were administered the instruments 2 days prior to each of the 3 competitions. State optimism and pessimism levels were assessed with the Optimism/Pessimism Scale (OPS; Dember, Martin, Hummer, Howe, & Melton, 1989). Trait anxiety levels were established with the Sport Competition Anxiety Test (SCAT; Martens, Vealey, & Burton, 1990). Finally, the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 (CSAI-2; Martens, Burton, Vealey, Bump, & Smith, 1990) was administered to assess state cognitive and state somatic anxiety as well as state self-confidence. Directional scales were added to the SCAT and the CSAI-2 to determine participants interpretation of anxiety symptoms (Jones & Swain, 1992). Using ANOVA analysis, significant differences across game conditions were found for OPS-pessimism scores as well as state somatic anxiety scores. Consistent significant Pearson Correlations across all 3 weeks included: OPS-optimism and self-confidence directional scores (r = .762, .760, .655), self-confidence total and self-confidence directional scores (r = .659, .852, .871), state somatic anxiety directional and state cognitive anxiety directional scores (r = .793, .875, .780). Support for the expectancy theory was found in the present study. Thus, modification of expectations, more specifically altering pessimistic expectations may lead to higher performance quality. In addition, maintaining high levels of self-confidence may regulate the debilitative effects of anxiety and also contribute to more optimistic expectations.