The role of personality in sport and physical activity. Curr…


Personality has long been recognized as an influential factor in various domains of human behavior, including sport and physical activity. The study of personality in the context of sport and physical activity aims to understand how individual differences in personality traits can influence participation, performance, and overall outcomes in these domains. This field of research has shown significant growth over the past decades, with numerous studies exploring the relationship between personality and sport-related variables. This paper aims to provide an overview of the current understanding of the role of personality in sport and physical activity by examining key theoretical frameworks, empirical findings, and future directions for research.

Theoretical Frameworks

Several theoretical frameworks have been proposed to explain the role of personality in sport and physical activity. One of the most influential models is the Five Factor Model (FFM) of personality, which posits that personality can be described along five dimensions: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience. This framework has been widely adopted in sport psychology research, with numerous studies examining the relationship between these traits and various sport-related outcomes. For example, extraversion has been associated with higher levels of social involvement in sport, while conscientiousness has been linked to greater discipline and self-regulation in athletes.

Another relevant framework is the self-determination theory (SDT), which posits that individuals have innate psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. According to SDT, the fulfillment of these needs is crucial for motivation and engagement in sport and physical activity. Research has shown that individuals with high levels of trait autonomy, competence, and relatedness are more likely to engage in physical activity and have greater enjoyment and persistence in sport. The SDT framework provides valuable insights into the psychological processes underlying the link between personality and sport-related behaviors.

Empirical Findings

The empirical evidence regarding the role of personality in sport and physical activity is vast and complex. While some studies have reported consistent associations between certain personality traits and sport-related variables, others have yielded mixed or inconclusive results. Nevertheless, there are several key findings that have emerged from the literature.

One consistent finding is the positive relationship between extraversion and sport participation. Individuals high in extraversion tend to be more sociable, outgoing, and assertive, which may make them more inclined to engage in team sports and other social physical activities. Moreover, extraversion has been associated with greater enjoyment and motivation in sport, suggesting that extraverted individuals may derive more satisfaction from participation.

Conscientiousness is another personality trait that has consistently shown positive associations with sport participation and performance. Conscientious individuals are characterized by higher levels of self-discipline, organization, and goal-directedness, which are important for maintaining regular exercise habits and achieving success in sport. Research has also indicated that conscientiousness is related to better adherence to training programs and greater ability to cope with stress and setbacks.

Neuroticism, on the other hand, has been consistently linked to negative sport-related outcomes. Individuals high in neuroticism tend to experience higher levels of anxiety, depressive symptoms, and emotional instability, which can impair performance and hinder enjoyment. Research has shown that neuroticism is associated with greater subjective distress during competition, lower self-confidence, and increased risk of burnout among athletes.

Openness to experience, while less extensively studied, has also shown some associations with sport-related variables. Open individuals tend to be imaginative, curious, and receptive to new experiences, which may translate to greater exploration of different physical activities and willingness to try novel sport challenges. However, further research is needed to fully understand the role of openness to experience in sport and physical activity.

Future Directions

Despite the considerable progress made in understanding the role of personality in sport and physical activity, several key avenues for future research remain. First, there is a need for more longitudinal and experimental studies to examine the causal relationships between personality traits and sport-related outcomes. Many existing studies have relied on cross-sectional designs, which limit the ability to draw definitive conclusions about causality.

Second, future research should employ more sophisticated statistical techniques, such as hierarchical modeling and multilevel analysis, to account for the nested nature of sport-related data. Most studies to date have treated individual athletes as independent observations, ignoring the potential influence of team dynamics, coaching styles, and other contextual factors on sport-related outcomes.

Finally, there is a need for greater diversity in study populations. The majority of existing research has focused on elite athletes or college students, limiting the generalizability of findings to other populations, such as recreational athletes or individuals from different cultural backgrounds. Future studies should aim to include more diverse samples and examine potential cultural and contextual factors that may moderate the relationship between personality and sport-related variables.


In conclusion, personality plays a significant role in sport and physical activity, influencing participation, performance, and overall outcomes. The Five Factor Model and self-determination theory provide valuable frameworks for understanding the psychological processes underlying this relationship. Extraversion and conscientiousness have consistently shown positive associations with sport-related variables, while neuroticism has been linked to negative outcomes. Future research should focus on longitudinal and experimental designs, use advanced statistical techniques, and include more diverse study populations to enhance our understanding of the complex interplay between personality and sport.