Tenenbaum, G., Florida State University, USA and Elran, E., University of Southern Queensland, Australia
Introduction: Retrospective reports have served as a dominant method of eliciting personal reflections, feelings, and thoughts of persons undergoing various experiences posed by environmental and experimental factors. The underlying assumption is that retrospective reports reliably reflect the mental and emotional processes associated with these experiences. Self-reports are brief, simple, and easy to administer and score. However, they are limited for measuring emotions and thoughts during an ongoing activity such as sport. Thus retrospective report remains the only method of eliciting emotions and thoughts from athletes. Furthermore, reports can take two forms. One form consists of closed questionnaires and the other form consists of open interviews and reflections. However, the congruence between actual and retrospective reports, as well as the method used for retrospective reporting, for pre and post competition emotional states has never been established. This is the main purpose of this study. Method: 52 members of four university sport teams participated in at least one of three experimental conditions. The first condition consisted of actual measurement of pre-competition emotional states and retrospective measurement of the same situation following a 72-hour delay. Actual and retrospective measurement of post- competition emotional states comprised the second condition. The third conditions included actual measurement of pre and post states and simultaneous, retrospective measurement of both states after a 72-hour delay. RM-MANOVA and correlations were performed to estimate the congruence between the actual and retrospective reports of emotions. Results: The analysis revealed that athletes could accurately report and differentiate between their pre and post competition emotional experiences, and that retrospective report was not affected by the pre-post interference after a 72-hour delay. Athletes, however, underestimated the intensity of post- competition unpleasant emotions. Correlations between the actual and retrospective measures were moderate to strong. Thoughts and feelings that were openly expressed after 72 hours were not fully congruent with thoughts and feelings reported in real time. Discussion: The study's findings are discussed in relation to Ericsson and Simon's (1980, 1984) conceptualization of verbal reports as data, and Ross' (1989) implicit theory of stability and change. The short time interval between the actual and retrospective reports of emotions may have failed to allow an implicit theory of consistency or change to bias the retrospective reports of emotions that were provided 72 hours earlier. However, in line with Ross' conceptualization of personal recall, underestimation of pleasant emotions could have occurred because athletes contrasted their previous states to a new standard, and /or they wished to present themselves in a favorable manner, resulting in more positive self-evaluations, enhance self-esteem, and increased likelihood of pleasing others.