Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



There is evidence that individuals’ attributional patterns are important determinants of behavior. Controllability had been identified as an influential dimension of causal attributions. When individuals believe their actions have an effect, or control, on the outcome of an event, they are more likely to engage in a behavior. Contingency of feedback can be used to manipulate perceptions of controllability. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of controllability on causal attributions, efficacy, and performance in an exercise setting, using a design that accounts for explanatory styles. It was hypothesized that non-contingent outcomes on an initial task would negatively affect causal attributions, thus decreasing efficacy and performance on subsequent tasks. Participants were 150 female undergraduate students at a small four-year institution. Explanatory style was assessed prior to engaging in the experimental tasks. Self-efficacy, causal attributions, and performance on a hand grip and a wall squat task were assessed during a testing session. Taken together, the results of this study provide insight into how perceptions of controllability can influence the cognition and motivation of college-aged women as they approach physical tasks. There was some evidence that non-contingent feedback can produce a maladaptive pattern of attributions, in that women in the non-contingent positive feedback condition had more external attributions for success than those who received contingent or negative feedback. Non-contingent negative feedback was associated with both decreased self-efficacy and less effort, as reflected by poorer performance, on a subsequent task. Although strength and level of self-efficacy on a subsequent task were positively affected by positive feedback, a decrement in performance, which on this task infers a lack of effort, was evident. This demonstrates the importance of providing feedback that is contingent on performance, rather than simply providing positive feedback. Although explanatory style was not directly related to self-efficacy, there was evidence that optimistic individuals were more efficacious than pessimistic individuals. Explanatory style did not interact with controllability conditions. One clear implication for practitioners that is supported by these findings is the importance of providing feedback that is contingent on performance.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Melinda Solmon

Included in

Kinesiology Commons