Grieve, F. G., Houston, D. A., Dupuis, S. E., & Eddy, D. (1999). Counterfactual production and achievement orientation in competitive athletic settings. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 29, 2177-2202.

Two studies evaluated the impact of achievement orientation on reactive thought patterns ("counterfactuals") during different sporting situations.

The first investigation used 76 psychology students (M = 16; F = 60) who read 16 different vignettes describing athletes participating in a sport where either mastery or outcome (winning - losing) was emphasized. After reading, Ss were asked to put themselves in the athlete's place and create an alternative outcome.

Ss who read of victory, created more subtractive and downward alternatives than those who read of defeat.

The second investigation also used psychology students interested in basketball (N = 78) as Ss. Three-person teams were formed to play games and randomly assigned to receive either mastery (doing one's best) or outcome (winning) orientations before the games.

Ss using mastery-orientation as a preparatory focus, produced an approach response to playing that emphasized ways to improve performance. Mastery-players also reacted to both winning and losing in a more positive manner, developing strategies aimed at improvement.

Implication. Pre-game content that emphasizes mastery of performance, that is, ways to improve during the game, not only facilitates better contest thinking but also produces a better post-game response, whether the contest was won or lost.

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