Scientific research that gives weight and meaning to the importance of good group juju!
Essential for athletes on a (sports) team is the ability to understand the intentions and goals of each other and of their opponents. To do this they must be able to communicate accurately, have positive social connections, and convey a strong sense of group cohesion among the team. All of this is needed for a successful performance.
This article is a brief overview of the biological psychology process involved in creating a positive mindset among sport team members. It begins with an introduction into the neuroscience behind emotional bonds and how they are relevant. It then expands into a discussion about how positive emotions encourage a better performance overall. These findings are specific to a sports team of players but are also useful among any team group.
In their research Pepping & Timmermans (2012) examine the role Oxytocin plays in the biopsychological process of emotions and moods. Oxytocin is a hypothalamic hormone stored in the posterior pituitary at the base of the brain. This hormone is vital in women during childbirth and lactation, in men and women and how they form pair-bonds in intimate relationships, in social memory, social recognition, and social attachment behavior.
Since Oxytocin is directly related to the biopsychological process of developing emotions between people, Pepping & Timmermans (2012) assert that this extends to sports team members. Integral to a sports team is building trust, cohesion, cooperation, and social motivation among the players. Sports teams share positive experiences and emotions, creating a group cohesion and collaborative effort with a common goal. Research findings illuminate a positive correlation between players who engage in encouraging and supportive behaviors with greater performance and achievements. Their research indicates that “positive social interactions” and “prosocial celebratory behaviors” are linked to the bonding experience of Oxytocin.
Expressions of social emotions communicate cooperation and strategies among sports team members. Research also shows that positive emotions “have profound influences on a number of processes, including attentional control, cognition, and interpersonal functioning “. The beneficial subcomponents of sharing positive emotions are linked to performance, perception, attention, memory, decision-making and judgment. “The expression of an emotional state in one person leads to the experience of similar emotions in a person observing the expression…emotions influence other's people's emotions, feelings, and behaviors, leading to the convergence of emotions and moods”, (Pepping & Timmermans, 2012, p. 2). These findings give support to the importance of all team members and how well they interact.
The bonding effects of Oxytocin enhance the ability for empathy. In very general terms empathy is the capacity to see things from another person’s perspective and to recognize the internal (emotional) states of another. What this research shows is that an increase in Oxytocin produces an increase in the capacity for empathy. Empathy is also related to a player’s ability to perceive the opponent's intentions.
“Oxytocin has effects on cognitive empathy, emotional empathy, mind reading, positive and negative social emotions…cause convergence of positive emotions and moods between people and make it possible that athletes can respond to the emotional behavior from their fellow players and opponents”, (p. 16).
The researcher’s on this team agree that more research is needed on this topic. They believe that new discoveries will have a “significant importance for sport psychological and sports science support, talent identification, coaching, training, team selection, and team development”, (p. 16).
Pepping, G. & Timmermans, E. (2012). Oxytocin and the Biopsychology of Performance in Team Sports. Scientific World Journal. Volume 2012; 2012: 567363. Doi: 10.1100/2012/567363. PMCID: PMC3444846.
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