How expected versus actual role experiences relate to perceptions of group cohesion


Many athletes experience a discrepancy between the roles they expect to fulfil and the roles they actually occupy. In the present study, we draw from advances underscoring met expectations theory to consider how expected versus actual role experiences influence athletes' perceptions of group cohesion. To do so, we applied polynomial regression with response surface methodology to disentangle the independent and joint contributions of initial role expectations and actual role experiences on perceptions of group cohesion. In total, 153 Canadian Interuniversity Sport athletes participated across two time points. Role expectations were assessed at the onset of the competitive season, actual role experiences were assessed near the end of the season, and cohesion was assessed at both time points. In all analyses we controlled for tenure, team performance, gender, and initial perceptions of group cohesion. As predicted, when athletes surpassed their task-oriented role expectations, they reported higher perceptions of task cohesion (p's < .001). Further, when athletes surpassed their social involvement expectations, they reported higher perceptions across all four group cohesion dimensions (p's < .05). Notably, these response surface patterns—pertaining to both task and social cohesion—were primarily driven by the positive influence of actual role experiences (p's < .01), as initial role expectations had a negligible influence on cohesion. Together, these results reveal the interplay between athletes' role experiences and their perception of the broader group environment. Efforts to improve team dynamics may benefit from focusing on improving the quality of role experiences, in conjunction with developing realistic role expectations.

Acknowledgments: Preparation of this manuscript was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Joseph-Armand Bombardier Doctoral Canada Graduate Scholarship.