When anxiety is not always a handicap in physical education and sporting events: some implication of the defensive pessimism strategy.


  • Pérès Céline
  • Cury François
  • Famose Jean-Pierre
  • Sarrazin Philippe


  • Defensive pessimism
  • Strategic optimism
  • Anxiety
  • Expectations
  • Performance

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In this article we present a defensive strategy that individuals may use to cope with sporting events in that they present the possibility of failure and potential threat to self-esteem. Previous research has indicated that failures in sport and educational contexts are related to high anxiety and low self-estimates of ability. The defensive pessimism strategy lead anxious people to perform well in a risky situation by managing their anxiety as motivation. Defensive pessimists may use low expectations to cope with their anxiety so that it does not become debilitating. Decreasing strategic expectations may help individuals negotiate sporting events by intensifying reflectivity about possible negative outcomes, and increasing effort to reinforce the task focus. But defensive pessimists possess a cognitive flexibility that leads them to use their preferred strategy in risky situations and to select in their repertoire another strategy when failure is unlikely. These data showed that the effects of high anxiety and low expectations on performance may be mediated by the strategy use. That is why the users of defensive pessimism perform as well as strategic optimists, who report lower anxiety and higher expectations of success.

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