Loughborough University
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The mind-field of sport: emotion, mind and accountability in athletes

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posted on 2010-12-17, 08:43 authored by Abigail Locke
Using a discursive psychological framework, this thesis provides an analysis of athletes accounting for sports performance. Traditionally, such work has been conducted under a cognitive sports psychological framework. This thesis challenges the mentalistic notions of such an approach, when looking at 'emotion' and 'mind', and instead examines their potential for accounting purposes. Drawing primarily on retrospective semi-structured interviews, with additional data provided from focus/discussion groups and media data, the thesis considers a number of interlinking analytical themes. These can be divided into two broad categories. The first focuses on the athletes' uses of mental concepts such as 'mind' and 'emotion' when accounting for performance. Rather than treating these invocations of mental states as 'real' descriptions of the athletes' experiences, I consider the uses of such terms as embedded within narrative and used for accounting purposes. The athletes constructed the experience of emotion as normal for sports performance and claimed that it was needed to perform successfully. When looking at mind, the athletes invoked the strength of the mind as the difference between success and failure. Such invocations when accounting for success enabled the athletes to soften their agency for their good performance, thus demonstrating the embedded nature of such concepts within narrative. The second broad theme is closely linked with the first and examines the athletes' narratives of success and failure. I note how both accounting for success and failure are potentially problematic for the athletes. When narrating failure, the athletes have to delicately manage blame, stake and accountability. In contrast, when accounting for success, they have to manage their claims in the light of being seen as making immodest or arrogant claims. In addition, I note the relativity of the categories of success and failure. In conclusion, I examine the contributions of the thesis to three main areas of research, emotion theory, sports psychology, and discursive psychology. I argue that the explication of themes has demonstrated that mental concepts such as 'emotion' and 'mind', rather than being treated as separate and measurable entities, should be examined in the light of their discursive currency for accounting purposes.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© Abigail Locke

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en