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Does goal orientation matter for trait anxiety, self-efficacy and performance? An investigation in university athletes.


Nicholls (1984) contends that the two conceptions of ability are embedded within two orthogonal achievement goal orientations. These two goal orientations are related to the conception of ability adopted by an individual and act as goals of action reflecting the individual's personal theory of achievement within a particular achievement context. An individual who is task oriented utilises an undifferentiated conception of ability, focussing on developing skills, learning new skills, and demonstrating mastery at the task. The demonstration of ability is based on maximum effort and is self-referenced. In contrast, an individual who is ego oriented utilises a differentiated conception of ability, focussing on demonstrating ability by being successful with minimum effort and by outperforming others (Treasue and Roberts, 1994).

Nicholls (1989) pointed out in achievement goal theory that important differences in behaviour are related to how success is perceived and competence evaluated. Individuals who adopt task orientation are interested in learning and developing skills, demonstrating mastery in the task, and working hard. Individuals who internalise ego goals, on the other hand, are more concerned with social comparisons, proving their ability, and receiving desirable, or avoiding negative, judgments about their performance (Cetinkalp and Turksoy, 2011). For example, Boardley and Kavussanu (2010) reported that ego orientation may correspond to high levels of antisocial behaviours in their sport teams. Therefore, researchers reported that task orientation is positively linked to more adaptive outcomes (Behzadi et al., 2011; Duda and Whitehead, 1998; Roberts, 2001; Biddle, 2001; Duda and Hall, 2001; Ames, 1992). A high level of task orientation is likely to lead to high levels of satisfaction, challenge, and enjoyment of athletes. However, relevant findings indicate less positive effects of ego-orientation (Biddle et al., 2003). It has been stated that a high task orientation, either alone or in combination with a high ego orientation, is more adaptive. Also, it could likely result in more positive outcomes (Biddle, 2001). Thus, it could possibly be proposed that high ego orientation with high task orientation may be beneficial, whereas high ego orientation alone could lead to more negative outcomes. Moreover, it was also stated that athletes who are high in ego orientation tend to report unsportspersonlike attitudes, to endorse intentionally aggressive sport acts, and to display aggressive behaviours in the sport context (Biddle et al., 2003).

Many psychological variables have been examined in their relationship with goal orientations (Duda, 1989; van de Pol et al., 2012; van de Pol and Kavussanu, 2011; Boardley and Kavussanu, 2010; Behzadi et al., 2011). Anxiety is one of the variables that could be related to goal orientation. It was stated that that goal orientation plays an important role in a person's interpretation and performance during competitive sports and it will affect athletes' anxiety (Behzadi et al., 2011). Anxiety is defined as 'a waiting situation that upsets and oppresses people and an arousal that comes with the physical, emotional and cognitive changes when people face a stimulant' (Tekindal et al., 2010). Spielberger (1972) indicated two types of anxiety. Trait anxiety refers to how anxious one feels in general and state anxiety expresses how anxious one feels at a particular time in a particular situation (Tenenbaum and Milgram, 1978; Oner and Le Compte, 1983). Previous research about the relationship between anxiety and performance was initially based on the inverted-U hypothesis which stated that moderate levels of arousal were generally associated with higher performance. However, if arousal level gets too high or too low it leads to poorer performance (Gould and Krane, 1992; Spielberger, 1989). Moreover, Martens et al. (1990) stated that anxiety has two components which are somatic and cognitive anxiety. Cognitive anxiety is 'the mental component of anxiety and is caused by negative expectations about success or by negative self-evaluation' and somatic anxiety is defined as 'physiological and affective elements of the anxiety experience that develop directly from autonomic arousal'. It was stated that there is a negative linear relationship between cognitive anxiety and performance, whereas there is a curvilinear relationship between somatic anxiety and performance. If somatic anxiety is too low or too high, it negatively affects performance (Craft et al., 2003). Moreover, Hanin (1980) reported that there is an individual optimal zone for every athlete (IZOF). If anxiety level is out of this zone (too high or too low), their performance could be diminished. This individual zone could depend on athletes' gender, age, previous sports experience, etc. (KolayiC and San, 2011).

Self-efficacy is another factor which could be related to athletes' goal orientations. It refers to an individual*s beliefs that he or she can succeed at a particular type of task (Bandura, 1997a). Byrnes (2008) suggested that self-efficacy is one's belief about his or her ability to successfully perform certain actions and to be successful. It is suggested that general self-efficacy is about sense of personal competence to deal effectively with a variety of stressful situations. General self-efficacy might reflect a generalisation across various domains of functioning where people judge their efficiency (Luszczynska et al., 2005). Bandura (1997b) proposed Social Cognitive Theory to explain human behaviours. It was stated by Akinbobola and Adeleke (2012) that according to Social Cognitive Theory, individuals can modify or even create their environment especially as people are self-aware and purposefully engaged in seeking about their environment and to alter it for attainment of goals. People who believe that they will succeed in a certain task are more likely to do so because they adopt challenging goals, try harder to achieve these goals, persist despite setbacks, and develop coping mechanisms for managing their emotional states.

Self-efficacy is an important component of people's lives. Enhanced self-efficacy could positively affect life satisfaction or quality of life according to the relevant literature (Vecchio, 2007; Cicerone, 2007; Tsaousides et al., 2009). This could be due to the fact that individuals' efficient beliefs of their abilities (higher self-efficacy) could lead to increased life satisfaction or high quality of life (San et al., 2011). With respect to these explanations, it could also be suggested that self-efficacy is also important for athletes. Higher self-efficacy could enable athletes to be successful in many areas of their life such as their works, education, their relationships with others, communication skills, etc. Therefore, enhanced perception of athletes' self-efficacy could result in their increased effort to be successful in many fields of their lives as well as in their sports. In addition, enhanced self-efficacy of athletes could also result in increased effort made by them. Athletes' positive perception of their abilities could make them think that they can succeed in a certain task. This thinking might lead to increased effort to be successful which in turn could positively affect their performance.

In the last decades, goal orientations have been examined in their relationship with other variables that could possibly contribute to athletic performance (Duda, 1989; van de Polet al., 2012; van de Pol and Kavussanu, 2011; Boardley and Kavussanu, 2010; Behzadi et al., 2011). However, a potential effect of goal orientations on anxiety, self-efficacy, and performance has not been thoroughly examined in different cultural contexts with the samples from different sport branches. It was stated in a previous research that a high task orientation, either alone or in combination with a high ego orientation, is more adaptive than a low task orientation with high or low ego orientation (Biddle, 2001). Therefore, it was stated that task orientation is linked to more adaptive outcomes (Behzadi et al., 2011; Duda and Whitehead, 1998; Roberts, 2001; Biddle, 2001; Duda and Hall, 2001; Ames, 1992). In the light of the explanations above the goal of this research was to reveal the relationship among goal orientations, trait anxiety, self-efficacy, and performance. Revealing the contribution of goal orientation to trait anxiety, self-efficacy, and performance was also the purpose of this research. Another aim of this research was to make comparisons according to gender.



Fifty-seven university athletes (29 males and 28 females), excluding the ones who returned the questionnaires with missing values and incorrect answering, voluntarily participated in the study. The participants were the badminton players of 8 different universities who participated in national universities' league competitions. The participants' mean age was 21.36[+ or -]2.10; their mean number of training per week was 3.56[+ or -]2.12, and participants' badminton experience (year) was 4.17[+ or -]3.27.

Data collection tool:

The questionnaire had 5 questions for demographic information, 20 questions for trait anxiety, 13 questions for goal orientation, and 17 questions for general self-efficacy.

Trait anxiety was measured by Trait Anxiety Scale which was developed by Spielberger et al. (1970). Language adaptation of the scale was made by Oner and Le Compte (1983). The scale was filled as how the participant generally feels. The answers ranged between 1 (never) and 4 (always). The score that could be obtained from this scale ranges between 20 and 80. Higher scores stand for higher trait anxiety

Task and Ego Orientation in Sport Questionnaire (TEOSQ-, Duda and Nicholls, 1992) was used to measure individual differences in the tendency to identify with ego and task motivational goals within the sport setting. Athletes were asked to think of when they felt most successful in their sport and then respond to 7 task-related items and 6 ego-related items. Each response is scored along a 5-point scale ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The TEOSQ produces two subscale scores purported to reflect the orthogonal constructs of task- and ego-oriented definitions of personal success within the sport context.

General self-efficacy was measured by using the General Self-efficacy Scale which was developed by Sherer et al. (1982). Language adaptation of this scale was made by Yildirumm and ilhan (2010). The scale has 17 items which are answered on a 5-point Likert Scale. The scores which can be obtained from this scale range from 17 to 85 with higher scores representing higher self-efficacy.

Performance was measured by competition ranking of athletes. Competition ranking results were obtained from the referee board of the competition. The athletes who had participated in the single men and women competitions were identified and given a ranking score according to their ranking in the competition (e.g. 1st place, 10 points; 2nd place, 9 points; 3rd place, 8 points; etc.)

Data collection:

The questionnaires were obtained in the universities' league competition. The athletes were approached during the competition and invited to take part in the research. It was stated that participation was voluntarily and their data would be used only for the purpose of research. All the questionnaires were filled by the participants in face to face interactions in the sports hall where the competition was held.

Data analysis:

SPSS. 17 package program was used for analysing the data. Descriptive statistics techniques, t-test, Pearson's correlation analysis, and regression analysis were used to analyse the data. Level of significance was determined to be 0.05.


Descriptive statistics and Cronbach's Alpha values are presented in Table 1.

Analysis of independent samples t-test revealed that there was no significant difference between males and females according to task orientation, ego orientation, general self-efficacy, and trait anxiety (p>0,05)

Pearson's correlation analysis showed that the number of training per week positively and significantly correlated with general self-efficacy (r=.3 15; p<0.05) and task orientation (r=.347; p<0.05). Task orientation score was positively and significantly correlated with ego orientation (r=.522; p<0.05) and general self-efficacy (r=289; p<0.05). Moreover, general self-efficacy was negatively and significantly correlated with trait anxiety (r=-288; p<0.05).

Stepwise regression analysis revealed that adjusted [R.sup.2] was 0.15. Task orientation and ego orientation scores significantly explained 15% of the total variance in general self-efficacy [F (2.54)=5.770; p<0.05].


The purpose of this study was to discover the relationship among goal orientations, trait anxiety, self-efficacy, and performance. It was also aimed to discover whether goal orientations could contribute to the other variables examined. Another purpose of this research was to analyse the variables according to gender.

T-test analysis showed that gender was not a determinant of goal orientations, trait anxiety, and self-efficacy. This result shows that males and females do not significantly differ regarding these variables. It was found in a current research that the ego and task orientations of the women volleyball players are higher than those of the men. Therefore, it was stated that women volleyball players both enjoy sports more than do the men and compete more with their rivals than do the male volleyball players (Baser et al., 2013). Similar to the findings of this research, Kurtic et al. (2012) reported that male and female athletes did not significantly differ regarding their self-efficacy (Kurtic et al., 2012). It was stated in another research that males' and females' perceptions about their self-efficacy may differ regarding some features of the society such as patriarchal characteristics (San et al., 2011). However, no significant difference was obtained in self-efficacy according to gender. Anxiety was also examined according to gender and no significant difference was observed. Supporting this result Modrono and Guillen (2011) did not find a significant difference for anxiety according to gender. Our non-significant results in gender differences supported the idea that male and female participants of this research perceived similar levels of goal orientation, self-efficacy, and anxiety.

Correlation analysis showed that task orientation positively and significantly correlated with self-efficacy whereas there was not a significant correlation between ego orientation and self-efficacy. Saotome and Kimura (2011) concluded that perception of task orientation in sport may be associated with generalised self-efficacy (Saotome and Kimura, 2011). Past research also highlighted the importance of task orientation. For example, findings from Voight et al. (2000) strongly suggest that coaches and sport psychologists endeavour to enhance their athletes' task involvement. Task and ego goal orientation have similar characteristics with learning and performance orientation. In a study on learning and performance orientation, it was stated that a considerable amount of research in recent years has demonstrated the importance of goal orientation in different contexts. The researchers generally reported that learning orientation leads to positive outcomes and performance orientation leads to either equivocal or negative outcomes (Bell and Kozlowski, 2002).

Toros and Duvan (2011) conducted a study in fencers about perceived leadership behaviours, collective efficacy, and goal orientations. Similar to self-efficacy belief, collective efficacy is defined as a group's shared belief in its conjoint capabilities to organise and execute the courses of action required to produce given levels of attainments (Bandura, 1997a). Toros and Duvan (2011) found a positive significant correlation between collective efficacy and task orientation whereas there was not any significant correlation between collective efficacy and ego orientation. Furthermore, it was reported in the previous research that task orientation is positively related to some adaptive psychological and behavioural responses such as satisfaction, challenge, enjoyment, and investment in young athletes (Duda and Whitehead, 1998; Roberts, 2001). In addition, it was stated that athletes with a high task/low ego orientation experience more enjoyment in soccer and importance and utility value than low-task/high-ego and low-task/low-ego athletes (Stuntz and Weiss, 2009). It was also stated that ego-orientation is related to more negative responses in general (Walling et al., 1993).

The effects of goal orientation on other variables related to performance have been also tested in different populations. For instance, Sari et al. (2013) conducted a research in young basketball players and found that task orientation of the athletes makes a positive significant contribution to their self-esteem. This result shows that higher task orientation could also enhance self-esteem of athletes. Moreover, relevant literature also suggested positive effects of task orientation (Treasure and Biddle, 1997; Kavussanu and Hamisch, 2000). A previous research which was conducted in an exercise setting revealed that exercisers with high levels of task orientation, regardless of their corresponding levels of ego orientation, had higher levels of self-efficacy than the other participants with low levels of task orientation (Cumming and Hall, 2004). Altmtas et al. (2010) reported that task oriented youth soccer players had higher motives to be part of a team and to develop their skills. In addition, the result of Alvmyren (2006) showed that high task orientation influences athletes' health positively and high ego and low task orientation influences athletes' health negatively. This could be due to the fact that being task oriented or being in a task oriented climate influences athletes' health positively, as it reinforces personal progress and development (Alvmyren, 2006). Furthermore, a recent research on goal orientation and coping strategies showed that highly task oriented athletes can be predicted to engage in more adaptive coping strategies such as planning (Roness, 2011).

It was stated that minimising ego orientation and increasing task orientation in athletes is important. However, minimising ego orientation seems to be a challenging task in today's competitive sports. This is because every person has ego orientation in some degree. Therefore it could be said that athletes could be high on both the task and ego orientations (Roberts et al., 1996). Supporting this notion, it was reported that athletes who were high both in task and ego orientation perceive themselves as more capable and report greater satisfaction/ enjoyment (Horn et al., 1993). In addition, it was also found that ego involvement positively predicted effort in training (Van de Pol et al., 2012). This could be due to the fact that highly ego-involved participants may have wanted to demonstrate normative competence in trainings. Therefore, it seems to be more beneficial to increase task orientation instead of attempting to minimise high ego orientation. This will moderate the potentially harmful effects of high ego orientation and could lead to more positive outcomes (McCarthy, 2011).


The aim of this research was to discover the relationship among goal orientations, trait anxiety, self-efficacy, and performance. Discovering whether goal orientations could contribute to the other variables, examined in this study, was the second purpose of the research. Another goal of this research was to examine whether there were gender differences regarding goal orientations, trait anxiety, and self-efficacy.

Results showed that there are not any significant differences between males and females regarding goal orientations, trait anxiety, and self-efficacy. Correlation and regression analysis indicated that there are some correlations among variables. Also goal orientations significantly contributed to athletes' general self-efficacy. While task orientation positively contributes to general self-efficacy, it was found that ego orientation negatively affects self-efficacy belief of badminton players. Higher task orientation seems to be beneficial for self-efficacy beliefs of athletes. Previous research also suggested that task orientation is more beneficial and could lead to more positive outcomes (see Roberts, 2001; Biddle, 2001; Baric et al., 2002; San et al., 2013). However, ego orientation appeared to be negatively affecting self-efficacy of badminton players. Relevant findings also suggested that high ego orientation could result in relatively negative outcomes (Kavussanu and Ntoumanis, 2003; Kavussanu and Roberts, 2001) and that athletes with a task orientation focussed on adaptive achievement strategies whereas athletes with an ego orientation focussed on potentially maladaptive achievement strategies (Lochbaum and Roberts, 1993). It appears that task orientation enhances self-efficacy beliefs of badminton players whereas ego orientation negatively contributes to it. Sport coaches, physical education teachers and sport psychologists could make use of the result of this research in order to enhance athletes' self-efficacy.

Ihsan Sari

Sakarya University


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Table 1. Descriptive statistics and Cronbach's
Alphas of variables

                    N     Min     Max    Mean     SD       Alpha

Task orientation    57   2.14    5.00    3.94    0.60       0.74
Ego orientation     57   1.94    4.83    3.53    0.63       0.65
General             57   42.00   82.00   63.96   10.15      0.81
Trait anxiety       57   29.00   55.00   41.38   6.72       0.74

Table 2. The difference between males and
females according to the variables

                 Gender   N    Mean    SD      P

Task orien-      Male     29   3.85    0.58    0.24
tation           Female   28   4.04    0.62

Ego orienta-     Male     29   3.40    0.59    0.11
tion             Female   28   3.67    0.64

General          Male     29   63.76   11.92   0.88
self-efficacy    Female   28   64.16   8.13

Trait            Male     29   41.04   7.21
anxiety          Female   28   41.74   6.28    0.70

Table 3. Correlation between variables

                                         1       2       3        4

                                   r     1
1.Age                              p
                                   r   .065      1
2.Sportsyear                       p   .642
                                   r   .164    -.116     1
3.Number of training (per week)    p   .251    .411
                                   r   -.016   .047    -.185      1
4.Ranking                          p   .952    .859     .477
                                   r   -.054   .011    .347 *   -.182
5.Task orientation                 p   .699    .936     .012    .484
                                   r   -.021   -.178    .185    -.368
6.Ego orientation                  p   .882    .198     .188    .146
                                   r   .104    -.055   .315 *   -.063
7.General self-efficacy            p   .456    .693     .023    .810
                                   r   .160    -.061   -.012    -.143
8.Trait anxiety                    p   .247    .662     .933    .583

                                         5        6        7      8

1.Age                              p
2.Sportsyear                       p
3.Number of training (per week)    p
4.Ranking                          p
                                   r     1
5.Task orientation                 p
                                   r   .522 *     1
6.Ego orientation                  p    .000
                                   r   .289 *   -.109      1
7.General self-efficacy            p    .029    .421
                                   r   -.074    .042    -.288 *   1
8.Trait anxiety                    p    .585    .758     .030

* p<0.05

Table 4. Regression analysis predicting general self-efficacy

                    [R.sup.2]     F       B       SE

Task Orientation      0.15      5.770   8.032    2.448
Ego Orientation                         -5.786   2.350

                    [beta]     t        P

Task Orientation    0.475    3.281    0.002
Ego Orientation     -0.356   -2.462   0.017
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Author:Sari, Ihsan
Date:Dec 22, 2015
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