By Dr Emily Ortega, Head, Psychology Programme
Self-regulation plays an important role in many behaviours and a lack of self-regulation is believed to be linked to poor physical health and emotional well-being (Baumeister, Heatherton, & Tice, 1994). In elite sports, self-regulation is also believed to be a critical factor for successful performance (Kitsantas, Corbatto, Javussanu, & Van de Pol, 2017). Since heart rate variability (HRV) has been identified as a marker for self-regulation, it was postulated that elite athletes from a closed skill sport that demands high self-regulatory abilities for sporting success would have higher HRV in comparison to athletes from a team sport and a non-athlete population.
Personality traits of the three groups were also assessed to determine if HRV plays a role in trait differences that may elicit varying autonomic responses. A sample of 122 were examined, comprising of athletes from an individual closed skill sport (shooting), athletes from a team sport (floorball), and a non-athlete population (university students). It was anticipated that shooters would have the highest HRV and conscientiousness scores, while team sport athletes would have the highest extraversion scores.
Comparisons between the three groups found significant differences in HRV, openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, and agreeableness. HRV was highest for the shooters, lending further support for HRV as a marker of self-regulation.