The impact of opponents’ non-verbal behaviour on the first impressions and outcome expectations of table-tennis players

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Objectives:One aspect of social cognition that has received little research attention in sport psychology is the impact of non-verbal behaviour on sporting encounters. The purpose of this study was to examine the effect that opponents’ clothing and body language have on the way in which they are perceived.Method:Experienced table-tennis players (n=18) viewed videos of four models warming up for a match. Each model portrayed one of four combinations of body language (positive versus negative) and clothing (sport-specific versus general sportswear). Following the presentation of each model, participants rated their impressions of the model and a measure of outcome expectations.Results:Multivariate analysis of variance revealed that models portraying positive body language received more favourable first impression ratings. Clothing had no impact on first impression ratings. In addition, participants reported lower confidence in their ability to defeat the opponent when they viewed opponents wearing table-tennis specific clothing and opponents portraying positive body language than when they viewed opponents with negative body language or wearing general sportswear.Conclusions:Preliminary support was found for the potential importance of non-verbal behaviour in sport.

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