Sensation seeking among high- and low-risk sports participants : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University

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Massey University
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The purpose of the present study was to investigate the sensation seeking tendencies of select New Zealand athletes. A "sensation seeker" is thought to be a person who needs varied, complex, novel, and intense forms of stimulation and experience and who is thought to be capable of taking physical and social risks for such experiences (Zuckerman, 1994). According to Marvin Zuckerman (1994), 'Sensation Seeking' is integrated within a broader trait called Impulsive-Sensation Seeking (ImpSS). That is, the personality dimensions of 'impulsiveness' and 'sensation seeking' are thought to be interconnected. The main aim of the present study was to assess empirical support for Zuckerman's (1994) ImpSS theory and associated hypotheses, and to replicate and extend previous research findings in this area using high- and low-risk sport participants. The Sensation Seeking Scale-V (Zuckerman, Eysenck & Eysenck, 1978), the Impulsiveness Scale of the Impulsiveness- Ventureous-Empathy Scale (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1978), and a life span questionnaire of sports participation were administered to both male (n = 119), and female (n = 47) athletes currently engaged in one of eight sport disciplines - Hanggliding; Mountaineering; Sky-diving; Automobile racing; Swimming; Marathon running; Aerobics; and Golf. Results provided support for the main hypothesis of Zuckerman's ImpSS theory -- (a) that sensation seeking is integrated within a broader trait called Impulsive-Sensation Seeking; and (b) that total sensation seeking can differentiate between high- and low-risk sport participants. Results provided a mixed level support for some more specific hypotheses derived from Zuckerman's ImpSS theory. Findings are discussed with respect to Zuckerman's (1994) Impulsive-Sensation Seeking model. Limitations of the present study and suggestions for future research are also discussed.
Sensation seeking, Sports -- Psychological aspects