Challenge and threat: a critical review of the literature and an alternative conceptualization

Journal article


Uphill, M., Rossato, C., Swain, J. and O'Driscoll, J. 2019. Challenge and threat: a critical review of the literature and an alternative conceptualization. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01255
AuthorsUphill, M., Rossato, C., Swain, J. and O'Driscoll, J.
Abstract

In this article, the authors describe a new theory, the Evaluative Space Approach to Challenge and Threat (ESACT). Prompted by the Biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat (BPS: Blascovich and Tomaka, 1996) and the development of the Theory of Challenge and Threat States in Athletes (Jones et al., 2009), recent years have witnessed a considerable increase in research examining challenge and threat in sport. This manuscript provides a critical review of the literature examining challenge and threat in sport, tracing its historical development and some of the current empirical ambiguities. To reconcile some of these ambiguities, and utilizing neurobiological evidence associated with approach and avoidance motivation (c.f. Elliot and Covington, 2001), this paper draws upon the Evaluative Space Model (ESM; Cacioppo et al., 1997) and considers the implications for understanding challenge and threat in sport. For example, rather than see challenge and threat as opposite ends of a single bipolar continuum, the ESM implies that individuals could be (1) challenged, (2) threatened, (3) challenged and threatened, or (4) neither challenged or threatened by a particular stimulus. From this perspective, it could be argued that the appraisal of some sport situations as both challenging and threatening could be advantageous, whereas the current literature seems to imply that the appraisal of stress as a threat is maladaptive for performance. The ESACT provides several testable hypotheses for advancing understanding of challenge and threat (in sport) and we describe a number of measures that can be used to examine these hypotheses. In sum, this paper provides a significant theoretical, empirical, and practical contribution to our understanding of challenge and threat (in sport).

Year2019
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
ISSN1664-1078
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01255
Official URLhttps://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01255/full
Publication dates
Print02 Jul 2019
Publication process dates
Deposited19 Jul 2019
Accepted13 May 2019
Output statusPublished
Additional information

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY).

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