The relationship between emotion regulation and self-control effects on health-related exercise behaviours

  • Samantha Jane Meredith

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Within existing literature researchers have acknowledged the need for new experimental approaches to improve methodological and conceptual issues in the study of emotion regulation and resource depletion. This PhD thesis examined the relationship between emotion regulation and self-control with empirical evidence underpinned by novel representative experimental mixed methods, as well as rigorous qualitative methods.
Chapter 2 presents a review of empirical studies within four long standing sport and exercise psychology journals to explore the behavioural measures and research methodology adopted in sport and exercise psychology research. Data indicated a lack of dependent behavioural measures in sport and exercise psychology, and a reliance on questionnaire-based methods. The aim of Chapter 3 and 4 was to examine the relationship between emotion regulation and self-control with representative task constraints. Specifically, Chapter 3 presented an investigation of the effect of upregulating emotions in a faux filmed interview task on subsequent self-control performance in an unsolvable puzzle task. While individuals showed effort to regulate their emotions, there were negligible effects on subsequent self-control performance. Nevertheless, results indicted a potential moderating effect of mood in this relationship. Therefore, the impact of mood on self-control performance was further explored in Chapter 4 within an exercise-testing context. Using social psychological methods of emotion elicitation, anxiety was manipulated, and the impact of spontaneous emotion regulation on exercise effort was measured across 3 exercise intensities. In depth interview data in Chapter 4 revealed several key findings, including the impact of the experimenter and social interactions on participant regulatory processes. Yet, multilevel modelling illustrated negligible effects of a positive priming video and of anxiety manipulations on exercise performance between conditions. In contrast to previous Chapters restricted to laboratory-based approaches, Chapter 5 reported findings from within a natural rehabilitative exercise setting with ethnographic approaches and narrative inquiry. Results emerging from this Chapter included the potential value of emotionally intelligent regulation of emotion, and the creation of an environment that encourages emotional disclosure.
Empirical data presented in this thesis contributes to a widening evidence base questioning the existence of the ego depletion effect, and draws on contentious conceptual issues and methodological critiques in the self-control literature. Using novel mixed methods research designs, and interpretive perspectives, the current body of work points towards the importance of relationships, and interpersonal emotion-related abilities within exercise settings. Future research could benefit from an extended examination of emotional intelligence and emotion contagion within exercise contexts, and the use of narrative inquiry as a pedagogical intervention.
Date of AwardOct 2018
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorChris Wagstaff (Supervisor), Matt Miller-Dicks (Supervisor) & Martin James Barwood (Supervisor)

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