Emotion regulation, cohesion and performance during a polar mountaineering expedition

Christopher Wagstaff, University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom

Theme: Anxiety, stress, and emotions

Program ID: LEC-09C

Presentation: October 3, 2013 2:30 pm - 3:45 pm

Room: Jasperwood


Research on emotion regulation in performance domains distinguishes between adaptive (e.g., acceptance) and maladaptive (e.g., expressive suppression) strategies, with the former being more frequently used and hypothesised to lead to better interpersonal relationships. However, little is known about the relationship between emotion regulation and team outcomes (e.g., cohesion and performance). We examined emotions, emotion regulation strategies, cohesion and performance in a team of 12 mountaineers during a two-month Antarctic expedition. Data were collected using pre- and post-interviews and daily diary checklists. Task cohesion was significantly lower on days when a team member experienced anger (M = 7.25, SD = 1.19) than contentment (M = 8.55, SD = .59), t(9) = -4.57, p = .001. Significantly lower levels of social cohesion were reported on days when a team member experienced anger (M = 6.47, SD = 2.06) than contentment (M = 8.96, SD = .84), t(9) = -3.34, p = .009. Moreover, perceptions of team performance were significantly lower on days when a team member experienced anger (M = 6.65, SD = 1.62) than contentment (M = 7.35, SD = 1.62), t(9) = -3.85, p = < .004. Participants perceived their regulation strategies to be only moderately effective (M = 4.95, SD = 1.48), with acceptance (M = 7.19, SD = 2.29) and expressive suppression (M = 6.21, SD = 1.67) the most valued. Interestingly, participants reported higher levels of mental (M = 7.56, SD = 1.08) than physical (M = 4.77, SD = 1.10) fatigue on days when using expressive suppression. These data provide support for the concept of emotional contagion and indicate that emotional experience and regulation are related to cohesion and performance. Unlike findings in non-extreme, shorter duration sports, expressive suppression was frequently used and perceived to be an effective strategy despite being related to greater mental fatigue.

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