Meta-motivational dominance and sensation-seeking effects on motor performance and perceptions of challenge and pressure

Jason Cromer, Gershon Tenenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Aims: The current study aimed at delineating the effects of meta-motivational dominance and sensation seeking on performing challenging and boring tasks under pressure-filled conditions. Apter's (Apter, M. J. (2001). An introduction to reversal theory. In M. J. Apter (Ed.), Motivational styles in everyday life: A guide to reversal theory (pp. 3-35). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association) reversal theory and Zuckerman's (Zuckerman, M. (1979). Sensation seeking: Beyond the optimum level of arousal. Hillsdale: Erlbaum) sensation-seeking (SS) theory were used to postulate that high SS and paratelic individuals would perform better on challenging tasks in pressure-filled situations than low SS and telic individuals. They have also been hypothesized to differ on perceived pressure, challenge perception, and determination. Study's design: Seventy-three young adults were divided into two distinct groups, telic and sensation avoiders vs. paratelic and sensation seekers, based on two distinct questionnaires. The participants performed boring and challenging tasks under pressure-filled and normal conditions in a counter-balanced order. Each performance consisted of 3-blocked trials of 10 min each. Number of completions and errors were recorded. Results: Pressure had little to no effect on performance regardless of participants' meta-motivational dominance. Under pressure, perceived challenge was higher than under normal condition, and participants, as expected, felt more challenged when performing the apparatus task than when performing the vowel-circling task. Paratelics completed more vowel-circling and apparatus completions than did telic participants, but not to the desired level of significance. Conclusions: It seems likely that paratelic individuals tried harder than telic individuals when put into a unique, measurable, and uncertain situation. It is likely that paratelics needing varied, novel, and challenging sensations along with playful and enjoyment felt more inclined to participate in both tasks with vigor and enthusiasm to fulfill their needs. It is suggested that it may be the intrinsic form of motivation, which paratelics possess, that allow for better performances.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)552-558
Number of pages7
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Meta motivation
  • Motivation
  • Performance
  • Sensation seeking


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