PERFORMANCE AMONG COLLEGE MEN AND WOMEN:
INTERACTION OF PERCEPTION AND PERFORMANCE
Janet Nadler, Chris Sebelski, Paul Visich, and J. L. Mayhew
Human Performance Laboratory, Northeast Missouri State University, Kirksville, MO
Human Performance Laboratory, Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI
Original Publication Information:
IAHPERD Journal Volume 29. No.2 Spring, 1996.
Gender role identity is the core of personality development and a fundamental aspect of total personality adjustment. Male and female identity is often the result of what an individual has learned from a reference group. Parents, schools, and society in general provide much of the foundation of gender- role beliefs. A certain amount of aggression is permitted and encouraged in boys but much less is tolerated in girls (Brown et al., 1989; Goldberg & Chandler, 1991).
As late as the 1960s, the prevalent thought was that women should not engage in activities involving body contact, face-to-face competition, or application of force to heavy objects (Lenskyj, 1990). While strength is a fundamental quality for achieving optimum performance in most activities, females have been socialized to avoid heavy resistance training to gain and exhibit strength (Kaplan, 1979). The degree to which this concept is accepted and internalized by females could influence strength measurement. The purposes of this study were to determine how well college men and women could predict their one-repetition maximum (1-RM) bench press and to evaluate the degree to which personal perception of strength influenced the difference between predicted and actual performance.
College men (n = 74) and women (n = 91) enrolled in a fitness class volunteered to complete a survey of their attitude toward having and exhibiting strength. On the first day of class, each subject was asked to indicate if he/she thought their gender should be strong and if they should show their strength publicly. They were asked further to indicate how many pounds they felt they could lift in a 1-RM bench press test. Also, each individual was asked how long he/she had engaged in systematic, regular weight training exercises. Regular resistance exercise was defined as lifting barbells at least twice a week for periods of four or more weeks.
During the week following, each subject was measured for 1-RM bench press strength. After a sufficient warmup with light weights, the subject selected a weight and lifted it once. If he/she was successful, additional weight was added, and another attempt was made after a 3-5 min rest. It took from four to six attempts to achieve a 1-RM. The lifter was assisted by a spotter who aided in lifting the bar from the support rack. The subject lowered the bar slowly to touch the chest and returned it to full arms' length.
Of the 91 women, 40 (44%) indicated they should have strength and it was all right to exhibit it, while 42 (46%) indicated women should neither have strength nor show it. The remaining 9 women (10%) either felt they should have strength and not exhibit it. Those women who felt it permissible to exhibit strength significantly underpredicted their 1-RM by 6.9 ± 9.8 kg, while those women who did not feel strength should be exhibited significantly underpredicted by 7.4 ± 9.4 kg. The difference between the two groups was not significant.
Of the 74 men, 34 (46%) felt they should have strength and exhibit it, while 36 (49%) felt strength should be possessed but not exhibited. Only 5% of the men felt they should neither have nor exhibit strength. Those men who felt they should have and exhibit strength significantly underpredicted their 1- RM by 5.4 ± 9.0 kg, while those who felt you should have strength but not exhibit it nonsignificantly underpredicted their strength by 3.8 ± 11.6 kg. The difference between the two groups was not significant.
Women underestimated their upper body strength to a greater relative degree (24.4% ± 29.6%) than did men (7.3% ± 14.5%). At first this might appear to be due to difference in the training background of the two genders. However, the correlation between the years of training and the difference between predicted and actual 1-RM was only slightly higher for men (r = 0.39) than for women (r = 0.36). While both of these correlations were significant, they represented only 15% and 13%, respectively, of the common variance between length of training and perception of strength. It took women who had been training with weights approximately 5 years before the estimate of their strength corresponded closely to their actual strength. It took men 3.5 years to become accurate in their estimation of their own strength performance. Both genders tended to underestimate their strength ability, a fact exacerbated if they had not been training for an extended period of time.
This study noted that the percentages of men and women who found it acceptable to have and exhibit muscular strength to be approximately equal, but this acceptability did not improve their perception of their ability. As expected, far more women than men felt that strength was not important nor should be exhibited. These findings lend support to the concept that gender-role orientation still maintains that women should not engage in strength activities (Kaplan, 1979). Regardless of their feelings about having or exhibiting strength, most of the individuals underestimated their strength ability. This under-estimation was less in men than in women perhaps because of the greater involvement of men in previous heavy resistance training or perhaps because it is still not vogue to project yourself as strong if you are a female. As strength training becomes more accepted for and among females, they may be more aware of their performance ability and come closer to achieving their physical potenatial for strength.
TABLE 1. Physical and Performance Characteristics of the Subjects Varable MEN (n=74) Mean MEN (n=74) SD WOMEN (n=91) Mean Women (n=91) SD Age (y) 19.3 1.4 19.1 0.8 Height (cm) 178.7 6.0 164.2 5.9 Weight (kg) 75.0 12.9 60.5 11.1 % Fat 10.7 4.2 20.9 4.2 Pred 1-RM (kg)a 67.3 24.4 24.4 11.0 Act 1-RM (kg)b 72.2 21.1 31.8 8.2 aPredicted 1-RM
TABLE 2. Correlations between Strength and
Physical Characteristics in men and Women
Varable MEN (n=74) Act 1-RM MEN (n=74) Pred 1-RM WOMEN (n=91) Act 1-RM Women (n=91) Pred 1-RM Age (y) - 0.16 - 0.18 - 0.05 0.11 Height (cm) 0.11 0.19 - 0.01 0.12 Weight (kg) 0.66 0.60 0.48 0.18 LBM (kg) 0.72 0.69 0.52 0.27 % Fat 0.17 0.10 0.20 - 0.08 Yrs Of Tr (y) 0.64 0.72 0.34 0.53 r > 0.30 significant at p<0.01.
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