Being a group versus feeling united: An experimental study examining the effects of groupness and cohesion on intention to return


Understanding group constructs has served as a useful foundation for examining sport adherence, with outcomes such as intention to return to a previous team receiving attention.  Two group constructs that have been related to intention to return to a previous team are team cohesion (i.e., unity; Spink, 1995, 1998) and groupness (i.e., perceptions of being more like a group; Crozier & Spink, 2014).  While there is recognized overlap between these two group constructs, it has been suggested that these constructs also are conceptually unique (Martin et al., 2014).  Given the potential for both similarity and uniqueness between the constructs, what is less clear is how they might relate to an adherence outcome such as intention to return when examined together.  To address this question, this study employed a within-subjects experimental design to examine the effect of varying levels of both cohesion and groupness on an individual athlete’s intention to return.   Adult soccer players (N = 68) read four vignettes describing hypothetical teams that differed in levels of both cohesion (high [HC] versus low [LC]) and groupness (high [HG] versus low [LG]).  While imagining themselves as a member of each team, they rated their intention to return to that team based on the cohesion/groupness characteristics outlined in the vignette.  Results indicated that the overall ANOVA model was significant (p<.001) and the effect was strong (ηp2 = .72).  Further, post-hoc analysis revealed that intentions to return were highest after imagining being a member of the HC/HG team, followed by the HC/LG, LC/HG, and LC/LG teams respectively, with participants reporting significantly lower intentions to return to each subsequent team.  While in need of real-world replication, this provides initial support for the idea that cohesion and groupness are distinct constructs that appear to have independent and additive effects on intention to return.