Tag Archives: athletes

Going for the Gold

The Winter Olympics have been a huge draw for many people this year. In fact, for Americans and Canadians, they have dominated the television ratings since opening night. Given the excitement of many of the sports, it’s not surprising the games have garnered so much attention. In fact, when comparing these games to the Summer Olympics, it seems that many of the featured sports are considered rather extreme and dangerous. There is snowboarding, which landed one American Olympic hopeful in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury prior to the games. Then there are the high speed sports of skeleton and luge, which involves athletes sledding on a track either head first (in the case of skeleton) or feet first (in the case of luge) with no protection other than a helmet. The danger of these latter two sports has been especially apparent following the death of a Georgian athlete during a training run in which he was traveling at an estimated 89 miles per hour.

So why is it that so many athletes not only choose to participate in a sport with such risk but seem to be constantly pushing themselves to more extreme levels? One possible answer comes from the personality psychology literature and is related to a trait called Sensation Seeking. This individual difference, which is thought to vary from person to person, is often characterized by 4 behaviors: Thrill and Adventure Seeking, Experience Seeking, Disinhibition, and Boredom Susceptibility. Not surprisingly, individuals who score high in this measure are more likely to engage is risky behavior that is known to be thrilling and provide high levels of excitement. Also not surprisingly, athletes who participate in extreme sports (such as skydiving) rate especially high on this measure. What’s also interesting is some researchers have argued that sensation seeking involves addictive-like components. Namely, high sensation seekers experience a “rush” when engaging in risky behaviors but often need to engage in even riskier behavior soon after to experience this same feeling.

It’s no wonder then that so many athletes who participate in the Winter Olympics are returning every 4 years with bigger and faster maneuvers. When competing in a sport filled with people who are always looking for their next rush, the words “Go big or go home” become a way of life.

The Danger of Winter Olympic Sports.

Meertens, R. M., & Lion, R. (2008). Measuring an individual’s tendency to take risks: The Rick Propensity Scale. Journal of Applied Psychology.

The entertainment value of human nature

800px-Video_CameraA natural human tendency is to form groups to fulfill our social needs, navigate a world full of obstacles and threats, and also provide us with a sense of identity and self-esteem. The latest season of CBS’s Big Brother, set to premier this Thursday, July 9, will exploit this innate proclivity. The show puts a dozen willing wannabes in a house under surveillance for approximately three months. Once a week the contestants vote to evict one member of the household until only two remain, when the formerly evicted contestants vote for a winner who will receive $500,000. This season the show will split the houseguests into three age-old high school cliques: “popular,” “athletes,” and “brains.” 
Cliques create a unique experience of power and dominance with highly specific intra-group stratification and provide a sense of identity and purpose for members (Adler & Adler, 2007). They have a strict code of membership (e.g., what one wears, how one acts) and are exclusive (e.g., members are not free to socialize with outsiders, initiation to the group is difficult to obtain). The show’s format already ensures that contestants form alliances in order to win and labeling these groups from the outset that already have stereotypes and expectancies associated with them only accelerates a process that would have occurred anyway with or without the cameras. While we’d all like to believe that cliques exist only in the cafeteria or on the playground they can be found in nearly any place where human beings interact.



CBS Big Brother


Meet the Cast of Big Brother 11


Preadolescent Clique Stratification and the Hierarchy of Identity


Teens Health: The Nature of Cliques

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