A very popular branch of psychology is personality psychology. In the discipline, researchers attempt to answer questions regarding individual psychological differences, psychological similarities between individuals and attempts to present a coherent picture of the individual. The word personality originates from the Latin word ‘persona’ which means mask.

Personality psychology can be applied to a variety of fields. A common field of study involves testing what kind of personality traits are linked to successes in different fields.

Similarly a very interesting association has been found between personality traits and sports performance. While research has not found an “athletic personality” per se, several consistent differences in personality variables have been found between successful and non-successful athletes. The former tend to be more self confident, cope better with stress, more determined and committed to excellence and are better at attention focussing.

According to Jones et al (2007), athletes have the distinguishing quality of mental toughness which enables them to cope with competitive demands, be confident, handle stress etc.

In a study by Kanniyan et al (2015), which was conducted in Romania, it was found that there were significant differences between sportsmen and non sportsmen on the personality variables of aggressiveness, apprehension, realism and control. While considering aggressiveness, it was found that sportsperson were more aggressive. They were also found to be less apprehensive, i.e. more self assured than non-athletes.

In a different line of research, there have been differences found in personality variables between sportspersons who play individual sports and sportspersons who play team sports. Individual sportspersons have a higher degree of extraversion, openness and conscientiousness than team sportsmen.

Woodman et al found that sportspersons who have high levels of conscientiousness have better preparation and coping strategies and take fewer risks before and during sport competitions.

From these kind of research, it is often inferred that the relationship between personality and athletic success is unidirectional, i.e. certain personality traits cause people to do better or worse in sports. But it is also possible that actively engaging in sports alter people’s personality variables.

Pritha Sengupta

Pritha Sengupta


IRIANS- The Neuroscience Institute


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