Reversaltheory (Apter,1982) is a psychological theory of motivation, emotion, and personality thatpurports to explain human behaviour as well as experience. In 1999 Svebakproposed a triangular relationship between metamotivational dominance, sportpreference and biological composition among elite athletes using a reversal theory framework. Svebak’s proposition wouldsuggest that when three of these components match (e.g., telic dominantindividual with slow-twitch muscle fibre predominance who participates inendurance activities), they have a higher probability of success, and ofoptimizing the joy of participating. However, this proposition has only beenexamined in elite athletes (Braathen & Svebak, 1990). The purpose of thepresent research was to examine whether components of Svebak’s triangularrelationship could be demonstrated in the general population and to examine therelationships between dominance, state and physical performance.
A series of fourstudies were conducted with subjects purposely sampled and allocated to telic andparatelic groups from a pool of individuals who initially completed theParatelic Dominance Scale (PDS; Cook & Gerkovich, 1993). Subjects whoscored higher than one standard deviation above the mean were classified as theparatelic dominant (PD), while those who scored lower than one standarddeviation below the mean were classified as the telic dominant (TD) (Gerkovich,Cook, Hoffman, & O’Connell, 1998). Age, sex, preferred sports/exerciseactivity and frequency of exercise per week were recorded for each subject.
In each study,state was manipulated via video stimuli into telic and paratelic in a crossoverdesign before completing an exercise task, the subjects continued to watch thevideo stimuli for the duration of the exercise. Manipulation checks indicatedthat the video stimulus was successful in changing state. The Telic StateMeasure (TSM; Svebak & Murgatroyd, 1985) and Tension and Effort StressInventory (TESI; Svebak, 1993) were completed during each of the studies. Theexercise performed in each study varied with 5 s isometric leg extension usedin Study 1; 100 repetition isokinetic leg extensions in Study 2; 30 s Wingatetest in Study 3 and ramped peak test in Study 4.
Exercisepreference in all four studies indicated that telic dominant individuals preferredendurance exercise activities, while paratelic dominant individuals preferredexplosive exercise activities, supporting previous research (Cogan & Brown,1999; Kerr, 1991; Kerr & Svebak, 1989; Svebak & Kerr, 1989). Physiologicalresponses (EMG and HR for Studies 1 and 2; HRV and HR for Studies 3 and 4)showed mixed results. For the Study 1, EMG was employed to examine if eitherstate or dominance influenced neural activation during isometric legcontraction, however no significant differences were found. Study 2, muscletension was examined using EMG gradients during isokinetic leg exercise with resultsindicating dominance determining EMG gradients rather than state (gradients presentin telic dominant individuals). HRV hasnever been investigated previously in relation to reversal theory. In both Studies3 and 4 the majority of HRV components decreased after exercise as a result of vagal withdrawal. When examining metamotivationaldominance/state and HRV variables, changes showed no statistical significance inboth studies, but responses in HRV variables were observed in relation todifferences between metamotivational dominance/state suggesting a need forfurther studies. Heart rate was measured in all four studies and results wereconsistent with telic dominant individuals having a lower resting heart rate. Nosignificant differences were found between metamotivational dominance inrelation to performance. However, across all four studies there was a tendencyfor paratelic dominant individuals to perform better during explosive/poweractivities while telic dominant individuals performed better during enduranceactivities, both groups tended to perform better in their preferred state.There was a strong tendency for telic dominant individuals to report higherlevels of stress than the paratelic dominant individuals regardless of thestate condition. State effects were observed for some of somatic emotions(i.e., excitement, relaxation, boredom and anxiety), while other emotionsshowed time effects due to the results of exercise in all four studies.Generally, both telic and paratelic dominant individuals were more excited andless bored at post-exercise; and telic dominant individuals were more anxiousthroughout the course of experiment.
The presentresearch has made contributions to reversal theory research by supporting previousfindings in exercise preference and resting heart rates, and presenting newdata on changes in stress and emotions in telic/paratelic state conditionsduring exercise. Furthermore, muscle tension, as indicated by EMG gradients,has been observed relative to state and HRV has been measured for the firsttime in relation to reversal theory, indicating possible links between HRV andmetamotivational dominance/state. Methodological issues such as statemanipulation and dominant group selection have contributed to the reversaltheory research. The data provide some support for Svebak’s proposed triangularrelationships among general populations.
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